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Drug Addiction Can Be Treated By Vagus Nerve Stimulation Therapy

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A new preclinical study done done by University of Texas at Dallas researcher indicates that vagus nerve stimulation therapy (VNS) might have the advantage to help persons overcome drug dependency by helping them be develop new behaviors from drug seeking behaviours.

The new research, released in the journal Learning and Memory, found that drug cravings in addicted rats were diminished when they had been treated with VNS. It’s feasible that the study could be applied to humans who have been addicted to drugs according to the senior author  Dr. Sven Kroener, assistant professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

According to him they are studying extinction learning and how vagus nerve stimulation can help people study a new behaviour that’s different to an existing, maladaptive habit like drug taking. When a person is hooked on a drug, extinction is a process to help them study behaviors so they are capable to take more actions.

Vagus nerve stimulation involves sending a light electric pulse through the vagus nerve, which is in the neck. VNS already has been permitted by the US FDA as a medication for particular illnesses, similar to depression and epilepsy.

UT Dallas is a main hub of VNS study, with trials presently being done on how the procedure can probably aid people recuperate from paralysis from stroke, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety or tinnitus.

For the present study, Jessica Childs, a graduate student in Kroener’s lab, utilized VNS to a test group of rats used within the study in a method called “extinction studying” to assess whether the process would help the animals be trained with behaviors and curb their drug cravings. Like Kroener’s study on anxiety, the drug addiction study sought to extinguish memories.

Extinction of fearful memories and extinction of drug-seeking memories relies on the same substrate in the brain. In our experiments, VNS enables both the extinction learning and reduces the relapse response as well.

The authors commented that the identical thought will also be utilized to persons looking to overcome a dependency to medicinal drugs; they quite often need to gain knowledge of a new behaviour that competes with their old habits.

They further added that this is what you wish to have in addiction treatment. You wish to reinforce behaviors that inhibit the old dangerous habits — do anything else, and spend your time more productively.

The rats in the study of would press a lever that furnished them with a drug and also induced a tone and a light. One day, nonetheless, pressing the lever stopped offering the drug, and the light and tone additionally disappeared. The authors forced them into withdrawal, additionally still retaining them in the equal context — in the identical surroundings with the identical lever. But now after they press the lever, the lights and tone will not be coming on anymore.

He stated, nonetheless, that the animals did not ever forget the usual drug-paired cues. Instead, learned something new that competes with the old memories — on this case, that pressing the lever produces no light, no tone and no drug. Over time, the animals press the lever less most often, but they rarely stop pressing fully.

According to the researchers, the rats still investigate a couple of instances each session, considering there might be something which will occur. They go from 60 lever presses all the way down to whatever like 10 per session. They evidently have not forgotten what the lever used to do and nonetheless have cravings for the drug.

Finally, the light and tone (however no longer the drug) have been reinstated, inflicting severe cravings within the animals and a relapse to drug-seeking, which results in more lever presses. However, the animals that experienced VNS cure during the extinction segment of the experiment pressed the lever less in most cases, by around 40 or 50 percent which means that their craving was so much lowered.