Kiwi alcoholics hopeful about brain implants

Kiwi alcoholics hopeful about brain implants

In a ground-breaking trial, a Dunedin-based neurosurgeon has implanted pulsing electronic plates into the brains of Kiwi alcoholics in a bid to cure addiction. If it sounds a little sci-fi, well it is. But the results are promising.  Six participants have had the surgery so far, and four of them have either stopped drinking altogether, or reduced to one or two drinks a month. And these were people drinking a cask or two a day, just to get by. The electronic plate sits between the left and right hemisphere of the brain, and is activated by Bluetooth. The exciting part is its possible future uses, because the implant targets the craving centre of the brain, researchers say it could theoretically help treat everything from drug and alcohol, to pornography addiction.

The implant suppresses brain activity in the specific craving area, rather than create new messages for the brain to interpret.

It has raised questions among the addiction treatment world about whether it should be promoted as a way to treat alcoholics and drug addicts given the rehabilitation programs and support already available. It has also angered some who believe the brain implants are messing with nature a little too much.

You may now be wondering, who are these people who are willing having brain surgery for addiction? Surely they could harness good old fashioned willpower and just put down the bottle?

Tonight exclusively on Story, we hear for the first time from Peter, one of the participants who went under the knife.  Convinced the implant was his last hope, he took the plunge - but did it work?

Tune in to Story at 7pm tonight for the full report.