New research may help explain why drug treatments for addiction and depression don’t work for some patients. The conditions are linked to reward and aversion responses in the brain. And the research suggests that some treatments simultaneously stimulate reward and aversion responses, resulting in a net zero effect.
Calming a neural circuit in the brain can alleviate stress in mice, according to new research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis that lays the foundation for understanding stress and anxiety in people. The researchers also showed they could shine a light into the brain to activate the stress response in mice that had not been exposed to stressful situations.
A team of researchers, including neuroscientists from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has developed a wireless device the width of a human hair that can be implanted in the brain and activated by remote control to deliver drugs to brain cells. The technology, demonstrated for the first time in mice, one day may be used to treat pain, depression, epilepsy and other neurological disorders in people by targeting therapies to specific brain circuits.
Washington University School of Medicine neuroscientists, led by Michael R. Bruchas, PhD, assistant professor of anesthesiology and of neurobiology, have attached the light-sensing protein rhodopsin to opioid receptor parts to activate the receptor pathways using light from a laser fiber-optic device. They also influenced the behavior of mice using light, rather than drugs, to activate the reward response.
Robert W. Gereau IV, PhD, has been named the Dr. Seymour and Rose T. Brown Professor of Anesthesiology at the School of Medicine. He studies the molecular mechanisms involved in pain sensation, and his research includes optogenetics, which uses light signals to activate or deactivate nerve cells responsible for transmitting pain signals to the brain.
To better understand and one day provide improved treatments for depression, addiction and anxiety, School of Medicine researchers are using tiny, electronic devices to identify and map neural circuits in the brain. The work has been awarded a rare grant called EUREKA (Exceptional, Unconventional Research Enabling Knowledge Acceleration), which provides funding for high-risk/high-reward projects.
Using a miniature electronic device implanted in the brain, scientists have tapped into the internal reward system of mice, prodding neurons to release dopamine, a chemical associated with pleasure. This LED light can activate brain cells and may lead to the mapping of circuits involved in sleep, depression and addiction.
Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown they can coax cells to move toward a beam of light. The feat is a first step toward manipulating cells to control insulin secretion or heart rate using light.
Focusing light into a scattering medicum such as tissue has been a dream since the beginning of biomedical optics, according to Lihong Wang, PhD, WUSTL biomedical imaging expert. Previous techniques allowed light to be focused only within a millimeter of the skin. Now Wang has invented a technique called “TRUE” that uses an ultrasound guide star to allow scattered optical light to be focused deep within tissue.