Switzerland

Erasing The ‘Memory’ Of Cocaine: A Breakthrough In Treating Addiction

The fight against addiction may have a powerful new weapon. Rehab will rid your body of addictive substances and teach you how to live without drugs, but temptation remains. What if you could forget ever having taken cocaine?

But what's inside? (wstryder)
Hooked on the memory (andronicusmax)

GENEVA – Unlike many other drugs, cocaine does not trigger a physical addiction. It can however cause a psychological one in some 20% of its users, which can push them to lose control over their consumption, and can often lead to dire consequences.

It is also that psychological addiction that lasts even after rehab, because the brain will forever remember having taken the drug

Now, neuroscience researchers from Geneva University may have found a way to erase that memory through a new laser technique that they have successfully tested on mice.

The scientists focused on a part of the nervous system called the "reward circuit." The main function of this network of brain cells is associating vital behaviors – like eating or reproducing – with feelings of pleasure. Information is transmitted between two different areas of the brain: one holds information on levels of satisfaction, and the other registers the context in which it happened.

Cocaine abnormally raises levels in the brain of dopamine, a substance responsible for the transmission of information between both parts of the brain. That phenomenon forever marks the brain and explains why even after years of sobriety, a recovering addict can still be tempted by the drug.

"Take someone who took cocaine in a certain place. Even sober, this person won't be able to walk by that same place without some of his brain cells getting excited and awakening a desire to take the drug," says Vincent Pascoli, the lead researcher.

It is this hidden memory, mixing context and desire to use, that the researchers say can be erased. Working on mice that have ingested cocaine, they infect certain brain cells in a virus that introduces a light-sensitive protein that can be targeted by a laser. With the use of a laser, researchers were able to control brain activity and bring information transmission levels back to normal.

The process proved a success in the short term, with the mice acting like they'd never taken cocaine in the days following the procedure. The long-term effects have yet to be tested on mice. And of course, the procedure must still be tried on humans.

Read the full story in French by Etienne Dubuis

Photo – andronicusmax

*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations


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China

Peng Shuai, A Reckoning China's Communist Party Can't Afford To Face

The mysterious disappearance – and brief reappearance – of the Chinese tennis star after her #metoo accusation against a party leader shows Beijing is prepared to do whatever is necessary to quash any challenge from its absolute rule.

Fears are growing about the safety and whereabouts of Peng Shuai

Yan Bennett and John Garrick

Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai's apparent disappearance may have ended with a smattering of public events, which were carefully curated by state-run media and circulated in online clips. But many questions remain about the three weeks in which she was missing, and concerns linger over her well-being.

Peng, a former Wimbledon and French Open doubles champion, had been out of the public eye since Nov. 2. 2021 when she penned a since-deleted social media post accusing former Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual misconduct.

In the U.S. and Europe, such moments of courage from high-profile women have built momentum to out perpetrators of sexual harassment and assault and give a voice to those wronged. But in the political context of today's People's Republic of China (PRC) – a country that tightly controls political narratives within and outside its borders – something else happened. Peng was seemingly silenced; her #MeToo allegation was censored almost as soon as it was made.

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