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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Society

Face In The Mirror: Dutch Hairdressers Trained To Recognize Domestic Violence

Early detection and accessible help are essential in the fight against domestic violence. Hairdressers in the Dutch province of North Brabant are now being trained to identify when their customers are facing abuse at home.

Hair Salon Rob Peetoom in Rotterdam

Daphne van Paassen

TILBURG — The three hairdressers in the bare training room of the hairdressing company John Beerens Hair Studio are absolutely sure: they have never seen signs of domestic violence among their customers in this city in the Netherlands. "Or is that naïve?"

When, a moment later, statistics appear on the screen — one in 20 adults deals with domestic violence, as well as one or two children per class — they realize: this happens so often, they must have victims in their chairs.

All three have been in the business for years and have a loyal clientele. Sometimes they have customers crying in the chair because of a divorce. According to Irma Geraerts, 45, who has her own salon in Reusel, a village in the North Brabant region, they're part-time psychologists. "A therapist whose hair I cut explained to me that we have an advantage because we touch people. We are literally close. The fact that we stand behind people and make eye contact via the mirror also helps."

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