Lobotomies for everyone!

Stroke makes smokers forget their addiction

Researchers have shown that damage to a small but very specific brain area can wipe out an addiction to smoking.

The insular cortex is a relatively primitive part of the brain whose functions include providing an emotional context for experiences, such as drug taking, along with some higher-level, decision-making functions involved, for example, in forming memories.

Bechera's experience with these patients supports his hypothesis that addiction is caused by an imbalance between two neuronal systems -- the impulsive system controlled by a brain area (the amygdala) that helps to process emotions and a reflective system controlled by the forebrain. The reflective system anticipates and assesses the consequences, good or bad, that any action will have for the future. Most addiction research focuses on the impulsive system.

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11 Responses:

  1. Could we sign up certain political entities for involuntary procedures?

  2. mikesol says:

    I don't like the idea of burning out a chunk of the brain in order to change behavioural habits. I was a smoker for about five years (not long, I know) and have quit successfully for a few years now. There's no compulsion to go back to it - the ability to smell things and not taste horrible to my wife has taken care of any temptation I might have had.

    If it could be really selective, i.e. just tackle current addictions with no effect on future use, sure; but drugs are fun to play with once in a while, and it's probably a good idea to keep the chunk of your brain that is interested in them. Well, if you are interested, that is.

  3. azul_ros says:

    I think this will lead to better research as far as people who are prone to drug & alcohol addictions. Wonder if it would work for people who over eat, have sex addiction, etc.?

  4. jkonrath says:

    There's been a ton of research done on insular cortex mapping, because it's a key center in the brain with regard to interpretation of pain. Many NIH grants have been spent torturing old geezers with lasers to map out their ECG readings in hopes of discovering the next pain relief wonder drug, or maybe video game controller feedback system.

  5. 1423 says:

    A bit of keyhole surgery could have helped Proust kick that annoying madeleine habit.

  6. babynutcase says:

    This week we watched a movie in class about a man named Phineas Gage. Phineas was the head of a dynamite crew working on a railroad. Apparently Phineas was a man very in control of situations and who made calm, rational decisions. One day, Phineas was using a steel rod to ram a charge of dynamite into a hole drilled in solid rock. Suddenly, an explosion caused the rod to blast into his cheek, through his brain, and out the top of his head (one doctor remarked that he could pass one hand through the hole in his cheek and touch his other hand which was placed through the hole in his skull!).

    Phineas miraculously survived the accident, but the connection between his frontal cortex and limbic system was lost causing him to remain a different man forever after. The serious, industrious, and energetic Phineas that once was, had been transformed into an irresponsible man who was thoughtless of others. Phineas lost his emotional self-control and balance forever. His communication with humans was forevermore impaired by his unnatural emotional sparsity, however he did gain a great love for animals and remained able to communicate with them fully.

    • jkonrath says:

      The pictures of his head with spike (ok, CGI mockups) are pretty cool.

      Also google around (but not, like, while you're eating) on Ahad Israfil, who lost almost half of his brain in a gunshot wound, yet somehow ended up mostly OK.

  7. In the future there'll be a minority of eccentrics who want to be 'normal' and unhealthy out of stubbornness, and refuse to go to the laser brain man.

    • 205guy says:

      I was thinking something similar about the recently "proven" "benefits" of magic mushrooms. If indeed they make people more "enlightened" won't there be a trend to initiate everyone by some method or another, perhaps before they're able to have a say (if that sounds improbable, think circumcision)? Then there will be a bunch of unmodded renegades who want to keep their evil streak for fun and profit. (sorry for all the "")