scientificamerican.com – The brain’s reward system learns the actions that produce positive outcomes, such as obtaining food or sex. It then reinforces the desire to initiate those behaviors by inducing pleasure in anticipation of the relevant action. But in some circumstances this system can become oversensitized to pleasurable but harmful behaviors, producing pathological impulses like drug addiction, binge eating and compulsive gambling.
But what if we could spot impulsive urges in the brain and intervene to prevent the act? This is the promise of a new study published December 18 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, led by neurosurgeon Casey Halpern, of Stanford University. His team identified a “signature” of impulsive urges in part of the brain’s reward-learning circuitry, the nucleus accumbens. Delivering electrical pulses to this region on detecting this activity reduced binge-eating behavior in mice. They also observed the same signature in a human brain, suggesting the technique has potential for treating a range of conditions involving compulsive behaviors. “We’ve identified a brain biomarker of loss of control,” Halpern says. “If we can use that to prevent any of these potentially dangerous actions, we can help a lot of people.”
Damn I need this switch , then I can get these abs back and poppin like its 2002 again