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Could brain stimulation be the answer to ending drug addiction?
TMS might also help those with anxiety, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury.
According to government statistics, 21.5 million Americans suffer from a substance abuse disorder, alcoholism being the most common. As of 2014, 64,000 lost their lives to some type of overdose. Although many treatment options are available, no matter the type of addiction, recidivism rates are exceptionally high. Now, researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina believe they can reboot the brain’s reward center and halt addiction. This is done through something called repeated trans-cranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). What is TMS and how has it been shown to help those gripped by addiction?
TMS is a non-invasive procedure where a coil is placed on the scalp, which passes magnetic impulses through the skull. It’s believed that a changing magnetic field applied to certain parts of the brain increases coherence between cortical areas—essentially improving communication between different brain regions. The FDA approved this technique a decade ago to help ease the symptoms of depression when antidepressants failed to work.
The frequency applied during TMS can be as high as 10-20 Hertz or as low as 1 Hertz, depending on a person’s motor threshold. Motor threshold is determined by how much frequency is required to make a patient’s leg muscle or thumb jump, when TMS is applied to the brain’s motor strip. It doesn’t hurt. Patients report feeling a tapping sensation on the head. Sessions last 30 minutes and typically, treatment takes place a few times a week for six weeks.
A patient undergoes trans-cranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Image credit: Getty Images.
Since it’s applied to the scalp, deeper areas of the brain cannot be reached. However, TMS has shown to help those with depression by stimulating a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex. Physicians are considering TMS for other conditions too, such as Parkinson’s, epilepsy, chronic pain, and schizophrenia. While brain stimulation has been used for decades to treat psychiatric disorders, only recently have researchers been experimenting with TMS to treat addiction.
The idea was inspired by a 2013 National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) study, led by neuroscientists Antonello Bonci and Billy Chen. They used rats who were so addicted to cocaine, they’d risk a series of painful electric shocks in order to get their fix. The rodents had also been genetically altered, making the neurons in their brains responsive to light. When the scientists stimulated the area of the brain known for impulse control, the rats were able to kick the habit immediately. Bonci in the paper wondered if TMS might have a similar effect.
Luca Rossi—an Italian physician addicted to crack cocaine and his father, a chemist, after learning of this study, decided to approach Italian addiction specialist Luigi Gallimberti with the idea. Since then, Gallimberti’s lab has treated over 300 addicts with TMS. For addiction, generally the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, the reward center of the brain, is stimulated. This is thought to be where addiction originates from. Unfortunately, we still don’t know all the ins and outs of how addiction effects the brain. As a result, there’s no current treatment based on altering the neural circuit responsible for addiction, yet.
The ventromedial prefrontal cortex is the location of the brain’s reward center and as such, is responsible for addiction. Image credit: National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH).
One thing we do know is that addiction hijacks the brain’s reward circuit. It floods the brain with dopamine—which gives us that warm, euphoric feeling. As a result, the brain’s dopamine receptors get accustomed to being flush with the feel good neurotransmitter. After awhile they get used to having a certain amount, a tolerance is built up, and so the person needs more and more just to get the same result, leading to addiction. Now, researchers at Medical University of South Carolina are the first to illustrate that TMS can reduce brain activity associated with addiction in cases of chronic cocaine and alcohol abuse. These findings were published in the journal Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging.
Researchers carried on two concurrent studies. Study author Tonisha Kearney-Ramos, Ph.D. led these, which were supervised by senior author Colleen Hanlon, PhD. The first part included 24 alcoholics and the second, 25 cocaine addicts. Each underwent an actual TMS session and a faked one, where researchers pretended to administer TMS, but didn’t actually turn on the machine. Scientists then took brain scans using an fMRI before and after TMS took place, to rate each participant’s response to drug or alcohol cues, such as being shown a liquor bottle.
Often, brain activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex becomes elevated when the person witnesses something related to their addiction. This is called cue reactivity. When they underwent bona fide TMS, participants showed less cue reactivity than after the sham session. What remains to be seen however, is if these changes result in reduced drug or alcohol use. According to the researchers, repeated TMS sessions might work. Cue reactivity is a big part of a lot of other conditions too, such as anxiety, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury. TMS may be able to help these patients as well.
To learn more about TMS, click here:
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Can an orgasm a day really keep the doctor away?
- Achieving orgasm through masturbation provides a rush of feel-good hormones (such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin) and can re-balance our levels of cortisol (a stress-inducing hormone). This helps our immune system function at a higher level.
- The surge in "feel-good" hormones also promotes a more relaxed and calm state of being, making it easier to achieve restful sleep, which is a critical part in maintaining a high-functioning immune system.
- Just as bad habits can slow your immune system, positive habits (such as a healthy sleep schedule and active sex life) can help boost your immune system which can prevent you from becoming sick.
How masturbation affects your brain...<p>Orgasms are a very common human phenomenon. The physical and mental health benefits have been researched frequently as a result, and yet, there is still so much to be learned about how our bodies and brains react to the chemicals and hormones released during and after experiencing this type of sexual release.</p><p>"The amount of speculation versus actual data on both the function and value of orgasm is remarkable" explains Julia Heiman, director of the <a href="https://kinseyinstitute.org/" target="_blank">Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction</a>.</p><p>Masturbation causes a rush of <a href="https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/what-is-dopamine" target="_blank">dopamine</a>, which is a chemical that is associated with our ability to feel pleasure. Along with the rush of dopamine that is released during an orgasm, there is also a release of a hormone called <a href="https://www.livescience.com/42198-what-is-oxytocin.html" target="_blank">oxytocin</a>, which is commonly referred to as the "love hormone."<br></p><p>This concoction of chemicals does more than just boost our mood, it also can play a key role in decreasing stress and promoting relaxation. Oxytocin decreases <a href="https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-cortisol" target="_blank">cortisol</a>, which is a stress hormone that is usually present (in high volumes) during times of anxiety, fear, panic, or distress. </p><p>According to BDSM and fetish researcher <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/dr-gloria-brame-colbert-ga/278388" target="_blank">Dr. Gloria Brame</a>, an orgasm is the biggest non-drug induced blast of dopamine that we can experience. </p><p>By boosting the oxytocin and dopamine levels and subsequently decreasing our cortisol levels, the brain is placed in a more relaxed, euphoric, and calm state. </p>
Masturbation boosts your immune system and raises your white blood cell count.<p>How do those effects on the brain from reaching orgasm translate to boosting our immune system and making our body healthier?</p><p>The increase of oxytocin and dopamine that causes a decrease in cortisol levels can help boost our immune system because cortisol (well-known for being a stress-inducing hormone) actually helps maintain your immune system if released in small doses. </p><p>According to <a href="https://www.health24.com/Sex/Great-sex/incredible-health-benefits-to-masturbating-20181030-2" target="_blank">Dr. Jennifer Landa</a>, a hormone-therapy specialist, masturbation can produce the right kind of environment for a strengthened immune system to thrive. </p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15316239" target="_blank">A study</a> conducted by the Department of Medical Psychology at the University Clinic of Essen (in Germany) showed similar results. A group of 11 volunteers were asked to participate in a study that would look at the effects of orgasm through masturbation on the white blood cell count and immune system.</p><p>During this experiment, the white blood cell count of each participant was analyzed through measures that were taken 5 minutes before and 45 minutes after reaching a self-induced orgasm. </p><p>The results confirmed that sexual arousal and orgasm increased the number of white blood cells, particularly the natural killer cells that help fight off infections. </p><p>The findings confirm that our immune system is positively affected by sexual arousal and self-induced orgasm and promote even more research into the positive impacts of sexual arousal and orgasm. </p>
Masturbation can ease and prevent pain, which allows you to achieve the restful sleep that helps your immune system stay strong and healthy.<p>The benefits of masturbation have long been debated, but the more research that is done on the topic the more we understand that there are many positive reactions that happen in our bodies and brains when we orgasm.</p><p>Orgasms can help prevent or mitigate pain, which boosts the immune system, preventing cold and flu symptoms. </p><p>According to neurologist and headache specialist Stefan Evers, about one in three patients experience relief from migraine attacks by experiencing sexual activity or orgasm. Evers and his team <a href="https://www.livescience.com/27642-sex-relieves-migraine-pain.html" target="_blank">conducted an experiment</a> with 800 migraine patients and 200 patients who suffered from cluster-headaches to see how their experiences with sexual activity impacted their pain levels. </p><p>The study showed that 60% of migraine sufferers experienced pain relief after participating in sexual activity that resulted in orgasm. Of the cluster-headache sufferers, about 50% said their headaches actually worsened after sexual arousal and orgasm. </p><p>Evers suggested in his findings that the people who did not experience pain relief from migraines of headaches during their sexual activity did not release as large amounts of endorphins as those who did experience pain relief. </p><p>According to <a href="https://www.sharecare.com/health/chronic-pain/chronic-pain-affect-immune-system" target="_blank">rheumatologist Dr. Harris McIlwain</a>, people who suffer from chronic pain have immune systems that are simply not functioning at full capacity - therefore, alleviating pain (through orgasm, as an example) can help boost the immune system. </p><p>Orgasms can also promote relaxation and make it easier to fall asleep. Serotonin, oxytocin, and norepinephrine are all hormones that are released during sexual arousal and orgasm, and all three are known for counteracting stress hormones and promoting relaxation, which makes it much easier for you to fall asleep.</p><p>There are <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1233384" target="_blank">several studies</a> showing that serotonin and norepinephrine help our body cycle through REM and deep non-REM sleeping cycles. During these sleep cycles, the immune system releases proteins called <a href="https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-sleep-affects-your-immunity" target="_blank"><span id="selection-marker-1" class="redactor-selection-marker"></span>cytokines<span id="selection-marker-2" class="redactor-selection-marker"></span></a>, which target infection and inflammation. This is a critical part of our immune response. Cytokines are both produced and released throughout our bodies while we sleep, which proves the importance of a good sleep schedule to a healthy immune system.</p>
Masturbation promotes a high-functioning immune system; a healthy immune system prevents cold and flu.<p>The immune system is a balanced network of cells and organs that work together to defend you against infections and diseases by stopped threats like bacteria and viruses from entering your system. While there are many things we need to do to keep our immune systems functioning at optimal levels, masturbation (or other means of achieving orgasm) has proven to have positive effects on the immune system as a whole.</p><p>Just as bad habits (such as an inconsistent sleep schedule or harmful chemicals in your body) can slow your immune system, positive habits (such as a healthy sleep schedule and active sex life) can help boost your immune system. </p>
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
Paul Krugman on the Virtues of Selfishness<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="7ZtAkm6C" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="828936bf6953080e9018307354c0c02b"> <div id="botr_7ZtAkm6C_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/7ZtAkm6C-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> The Nobel Prize-winning economist on the virtues of selfishness.
Evolution Is Moving Us Away from Selfishness. But Where Is It Taking ...<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cyeqmYCb" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="6c5efecb56456e9acc25cf36935b1826"> <div id="botr_cyeqmYCb_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cyeqmYCb-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Exploring Morality and Selfishness in Modern Times<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="02eX1Cag" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="45cc6180db791f32683988fb52faff26"> <div id="botr_02eX1Cag_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/02eX1Cag-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> Philosopher Peter Singer discusses the state of global ethics.
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Ernest Hemingway was affectionately called “Papa," but what kind of dad was he?