Study Sheds Light on a New Way to Treat Compulsive Behavior
For the millions of adults suffering from compulsive behavior, including those affected by Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Tourette’s Syndrome, their only relief has come in pill form. But a new neuroscience study from MIT is bringing to light a possible new way to treat things like OCD without antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs.
Using optogenics, the neuroscience team at MIT has developed a way to help patients who don’t respond well to drug and behavioral therapy by implanting a small pacemaker-like device in the brain, which then delivers electrical and light impulses to control neuron activity. And while the technique is not yet ready for use on human patients, early results look good for people dealing with compulsive behaviors.
Identifying the specific neural activities that signal the onset of compulsive actions was the first step in developing the new treatment. And using a group of mice, the scientists were able to do just that. From there, they were able to perfectly time their deep brain stimulation.
The mice used in the study lacked the gene linked to the brain synapses responsible for controlling addiction and compulsive repetitive behavior. This modification made behavioral problems literally impossible for the mice to avoid. The MIT crew used light and electrical impulses to control the compulsive behavior in these mice.
Using optogenics to control cell and neuron activity with light, they were able to break the mice of their compulsive actions, without affecting the rodents’ ability to function normally.
(Image: McGovern Institute for Brain Research and Sputnik Animation)