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Brain Implants Looked At For Recovery Treatment

There are always technological advancement happening within our industry, some more noteworthy than others. This month, however, a pretty a large step forward was announced. The concept was so revolutionary, in fact, that it received global coverage from major sites like The BBC. The idea is that brain implants could actually help people overcome a severe addiction.

Led by renowned doctor Ali Rezai, the implants would work, as he puts it, to become a “pacemaker for the brain.” Tapping into neurons and dopamine pleasure zones, the electrodes would help control the extreme cravings that many addicts experience.

Dr. Rezai was quick to point out, though, that these would only be used in the most extreme cases and not commercially available to the public at large.

“This treatment is for those who have failed every other treatment, whether that is medicine, behavioral therapy, social interventions,” Dr. Rezai emphasized. “It is a very rigorous trial with oversight from ethicists and regulators and many other governing bodies.”

So far, there have been three trials of this procedure. One patient, 33-year-old Gerald Buckhalter, was profiled for the BBC piece. His vetting process was extensive, starting with a series of brain scans and psychological evaluations.

After being selected, Buckhalter went in for a lengthy surgery; which involved the insertion of a 1mm electrode into his skull. The implant was placed in the specific area of the brain that regulates impulses and self-control.

Then, a battery was inserted under Buckhalter’s collarbone; which can remotely monitor the success of the implant. Doctors, psychologists and addiction experts would then be able to use battery’s information to see just how successful the treatment truly is.

Though revolutionary in the addiction field, this type of procedure has been used many times in the past. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given it the green light for conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease and epilepsy. Currently, over 180,000 people have a similar implant.

Speaking with The BBC, Dr. Rezai felt confident about where this technology is heading and how it will ultimately advance the recovery field.

“Addiction is complex, there are a range of social dynamics at play and genetic elements and some individuals will have a lack of access to treatments so their brains will slowly change and they will have more cravings,” he explained. “I think it is very good for science and we need more science to advance the field and learn more about the brain.”