For years, researchers have known of this seemingly incredible phenomenon: patients with addictions spontaneously losing those addictions after a brain injury, such as a stroke.
“These were patients that were addicted to smoking, had a focal brain injury, and all of a sudden lost their crave to smoke, no withdrawal symptoms, no desire to smoke,” said Michael Fox, MD, director of the Center for Brain Therapeutics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “So we studied those patients and studied locations of brain damage, thinking hey, if an incidental brain damage can cause a patient to lose the desire to smoke, maybe that could point us to a therapeutic target for addiction.”
But what’s baffled those engaged in similar research over the past decades, has been an inability to correlate loss of addiction to a specific place of brain injury. Instead, they found brain injuries in lots of different places all leading to loss of addiction.
“And that was very confusing to researchers,” Fox said. “Because where’s the therapeutic target for addiction if the brain damage can be in all these different locations?”
“And we did it using something called a human brain connectum — basically a wiring diagram of the brain,” he said. “And we can take all these different brain locations and say, do they line up?Do they all hit one brain circuit? And that’s exactly what we found.”
“A treatment that directly intervenes on a brain circuit,” Fox said. “Something like transcranial brain stimulation where you can hold an electromagnetic coil over the circuit and modulate that circuit for addiction benefit.”
It’s unknown when such a therapeutic option might become available, but with more than 2,000 overdose deaths in the state last year — and a shortage of services — it would seem a welcome addition to the addiction medicine arsenal.
source: Yahoo News