The Chinese have been doing it for a while–burning away part of the brain in order to stop drug cravings. It’s highly controversial for obvious reasons, including the risk factors involved and the side effects that renders the patient unable to experience joy as well as other pleasurable emotions.
While it was banned in 2004, some Chinese surgeons continue the practice under the moniker of research. The procedure involved burning away parts of the pleasure center of the brain, which control addiction and addictive behaviors. It’s also been used to treat mental illnesses such as severe depression and schizophrenia as well as epilepsy.
According to a recent article in TIME magazine, “the surgery is actually performed while patients are awake in order to minimize the chances of destroying regions necessary for sensation, consciousness or movement. Surgeons use heat to kill cells in small sections of both sides of the brain’s nucleus accumbens. That region is saturated with neurons containing dopamine and endogenous opioids, which are involved in pleasure and desire related both to drugs and to ordinary experiences like eating, love and sex.”
But does it work?
Yes, but at what cost? Some doctors are calling the practice barbaric, others say it provides integral information in how the brain works and much needed knowledge that could some day lead to other, less invasive procedures to cure someone of addiction.