How Science Is Unlocking the Secrets of Addiction

By analyzing brain scans of recovering cocaine addicts, clinical neuroscientist Anna Rose Childress, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, studies how subliminal drug cues excite the brain’s reward system and contribute to relapse. When she showed images such as the one of cocaine on the left screen to patients for 33 milliseconds, their reward circuitry was stimulated. She’s trying to find medications that can prevent this activation and keep people from falling prey to “unseen” triggers.
By Fran Smith Photographs by Max Aguilera-Hellweg This story appears in the September 2017 issue of National Geographic magazine.

Patrick Perotti scoffed when his mother told him about a doctor who uses electromagnetic waves to treat drug addiction. “I thought he was a swindler,” Perotti says.

Perotti, who is 38 and lives in Genoa, Italy, began snorting cocaine at 17, a rich kid who loved to party. His indulgence gradually turned into a daily habit and then an all-consuming compulsion. He fell in love, had a son, and opened a restaurant. Under the weight of his addiction, his family and business eventually collapsed.

He did a three-month stint in rehab and relapsed 36 hours after he left. He spent eight months in another program, but the day he returned home, he saw his dealer and got high. “I began to use cocaine with rage,” he says. “I became paranoid, obsessed, crazy. I could not see any way to stop.”

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Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation being used by the MLB Giants -Why the San Francisco Giants Are Wearing Weird Headphones

The San Francisco Giants may be wearing headphones while they train, but they’re not listening to music. They are getting their brains “stimulated” to improve their batting, pitching, and catching.

The headphones are a new tool used by the Giants in hopes of enhancing player performance across the board. The team’s deal with the device’s maker, Halo Neuroscicnce, is the first public pact with a Major Baseball League team and a sign of how sci-fi technology is making inroads into pro sports.

The Giant’s use of the headphones, announced by Halo on Wednesday, comes just days before the start of the baseball season. The technology makes up an important part of the team’s training process, the startup said, along with the usual stretching, running, and weight lifting.

The theory is that low-level electric pulses, known as transcranial direct current stimulation, from the headphones stimulate a part of the brain known as the motor cortex, Halo Neuroscience CEO Daniel Chao told Fortune last year, long before the deal with the Giants was announced. That stimulation combined with physical training, can boost an athlete’s strength, “explosiveness,” and skill, he said at that time.

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These technologies stimulate your brain to lift your mood

Image: REUTERS/Chris Helgren
Image: REUTERS/Chris Helgren

“Another route to improving brain function might be neurofeedback. In a typical neurofeedback session a person sees a representation of their brain activity on a screen, and learns to raise or lower this activity through training. Neurofeedback has been used to alter the ratio of lower-frequency theta waves to higher-frequency beta waves in treating ADHD.”

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