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Controversial Surgery for Addiction Burns Away Part of the Brain (time.com)
33 points by 4ad 1576 days ago | hide | past | web | 45 comments | favorite



Some more insightful discussion on reddit.com/r/neuro/15jlxg

... read the abstract of this a while back, and it was bilateral ablation of the nucleus accumbens, if memory serves. The nucleus accumbens, of course, is not the "pleasure center" by any definition. It does not exclusively deal with pleasure, and pleasure is not only the product of the nucleus accumbens. As I'm sure many will know, the nucleus accumbens deals with lots of processes such as motivation, reward and both "positive" and "negative" emotion. It is pretty brutal, of course, and naturally this article was primarily concerned with the ethics of the procedure...


Maybe it's just me and my warped mind, but there's a part of me that incredibly fascinated with the amount of boundaries that countries like China are pushing (medical, human rights, etc.) with a dearth of any kind of ethical oversight whatsoever. They are rapidly approaching the West's level of technological sophistication but yet they've come down a completely different path...one devoid of any kind of power-checking, one that does not care of what the public thinks/will think or even what groups in other countries think. It's...quite the sight in the modern world.


> They are rapidly approaching the West's level of technological sophistication

really? a few months ago one of their rapid trains crashed into another because a lightning strike disabled it's system and the following one didn't even know the hit one slowed down. all other super rails have systems and procedures to prevent such occurences (let's not even get started on the Japanese one). say what you want, I wouldn't want to live or work in one of those Chinese 'build in 14 days' buildings.


>I wouldn't want to live or work in one of those Chinese 'build in 14 days' buildings.

Oh, neither would I. When I say they're rapidly approaching us, I mean they are fast acquiring the means/funding to do so, but not in the sense that everything they make is safe/ethical through a Western society's lenses. This is the lack of oversight I'm talking about and is one of the tenets that sets us apart from the BRIC countries and other developing ones.


Brasil and Russia both have various specific to their natures issues, but I wouldn't put them in one line with China trying too hard to become Jetsons overnight.


Coming from the United States, I find the idea of a country with "rapid trains" pretty darn sophisticated.


That's strange, I flew from Detroit to New York the other day, and it seems pretty rapid and sophisticated to me.


Trains are flying nowadays? I would certainly like to have those here! ;)


Come now, we all know that "fail fast" is a valid design philosophy in architecture. :P


"move fast and break things!"


That doesn't mean they don't have the necessary technology. I'm pretty sure they do. It means they didn't feel like spending the money to use it, which is a completely different thing.


Compared to millions of US kids being medicated for ADD with Ritalin, which can leave permanent marks like stunted growth. Or millions taking anti-depressants which also leave permanent marks, especially with prolonged use.

All these treatments have side effects and benefits so lets not blow China's lack of ethics out of proportion in this case. Prescriptions for drugs that permanently alter the brain are handed out with criminal carelessness in the US.


Re: "they are rapidly approaching the West's level of technological sophistication"

I would disagree with that assessment. Simple electronics aside, they are severely lacking in technology. For example - they spent several decades of R&D on a jet engine, and haven't been able to design/build (or even copy) one that would work. And that's despite all the technological knowledge they borrowed from the Russians.

Disclaimer: former Jet Engine major from Russia, saw much knowledge sharing with China


Does this mean the reports[1] about the Chinese stealt fighter are hoaxes or that they are buying their engines elsewhere?

[1]: http://duckduckgo.com/?q=chinese+stealth+fighter


Russian engine technology.

The J-20 is a big prototype canard fighter that has some stealth features but we don't yet know how stealthy it is, but it doesn't look very.

And there's very little information on the J-21/J-31 (naming unclear) but it looks like the JSF / F-22. It could perhaps be more stealthy.



Older Russian engine - AL-31 (АЛ-31Ф).


This just seems to be the chinese equivalent of the Lobotomy [1]. I guess one can learn how to create Aluminium and bend steel, but ethics?

1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lobotomy


Nah, they are just a few years behind us. The sad truth truth is our parents classmates got lobotomy, our grandparents classmates were sent to Auswitch etc.

The western civilization has not always been very civilized. (And some people would argue it still isn't..)


> I guess one can learn how to create Aluminum

Alchemy! Aluminium (aka aluminum) is a basic chemical element.


"Within five years, 53% had relapsed and were addicted again to opiates, leaving 47% drug free.

"Conventional treatment only results in significant recovery in about 30-40% of cases, so the procedure apparently improves on that, but experts do not believe that such a small increase in benefit is worth the tremendous risk the surgery poses."


Since FDA-approved treatments for nicotine addiction can't crack 10% in real studies, this 30-40% number seems quite dubious. Faulty studies for nicotine give similarly high percentages.


Not all treatments are medical. Substance abuse is a behavioral problem, and approaches based on clinical psychology have been remarkably successful.


What % is "remarkably successful" though? Maybe with current therapy for drug abuse we are fairly close to as good as we are ever going to get but I still doubt 30-40% of people who go into treatment stop using. People just don't change their behavior that easily.

I work in tobacco so can only really speak about that but a quick google is showing similar single-digit success rates for drug treatment.

I'm with Szasz that addiction is not a disease but this is not conventional wisdom. Obviously, drugs are not just given like how an antibiotic is, but drugs such as for related ailments like depression can be given for people in drug treatment AFAIK.


Since we're talking about treatments for addiction, I'd like to give a shout-out to ibogaine[0], a psychoactive substance.

Apparently after a successful treatment with ibogaine, it's like an "addiction switch" has been turned off in your brain. I was interested to read this article hoping there would be more about the "addiction switch", which I find a fascinating concept.

Instead, maybe with this treatment, the switch simply gets burned away...

[0] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibogaine#Treatment_for_opioid_a...


Psilocybin (magic mushrooms) are also being studied as a non-invasive treatment for OCD and addiction: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psilocybin#Medical_research


I read the whole article expecting to find some report of patient opinions post-surgery but it wasn't there.


This is exactly what I was looking for too. I'm disappointed not to find it.


Neuromancer; the drug-addicted protagonist had been the unwilling recipient of surgery like this (if memory serves).


And his solution was simply to find different drugs. Considering there's a 53% failure rate for this surgery, the results sound similar.


It seems like the surgery is only marginally more effective than conventional methods, and has drastic side effects.

The only scientists interested in this procedure seem to be sating a morbid curiosity rather than trying to cure addiction.


Thing is, the real issues with addiction are due to social factors - being homeless, depressed and miserable.


What could possibly go wrong?


There is no information on how patients were selected for this treatment, which does weigh in on the ethics and possibly the technical merits (assume the numbers aren't fudged) of even studying this.

If the patient pool was drawn from consistent relapsers who failed to respond to conventional treatment, then this could be significant.

If they just applied this procedure nilly-willy on first timers... then yeah, this is pretty bad.

We can draw -some- parallels with various procedures designed to fight obesity. Obviously screwing around with the brain is on a whole different level from screwing around with your GI tract, but the purpose is the same - to physically change your body to change your urges.

In fact, given the research raising the probability that the nervous system supporting the GI tract has non-trivial effects on our mental states, the two types of procedures may be closer than expected - though once again, obviously acting on completely different degrees on magnitude in respect to effect on your mind/being.


sounds like the methods used in a clockwork orange


I thought Clockwork Orange worked by forcefully building strong negative associations


In comment section someone suggested using that on sex offenders... Nice, get wrongly accused of rape (might not happen where you live, but where I live it's common way to get money from a man) and be lobotomised. Some other commenter suggests to find anger spot in brain and fix that... I suggest beter surgery- lets behead every morron suggesting such crap.


There are already proposals to castrate (chemically or even surgically) sex offenders. It was not all that long ago that lobotomy was common practice, and it was applied to prisoners.


Yes, and I hopped that we grew out of "lets do unfixable damage to everyone we don't like" age. And about castration - it might end up common practice, after all radical feminists are pushing for castration of men (and their extermination), feminism keeps fud that all women will be raped...

I would honestly take capital punishment rather than live lobotomised or castrated.


> And about castration - it might end up common practice, after all radical feminists are pushing for castration of men (and their extermination), feminism keeps fud that all women will be raped...

This is FUD, mandatory chemical or surgical castration for convicts is not a popular thing and isn't being pushed for legislatively or by most activist groups at this time. Feminism does not make a case for exterminating men, and anyone who suggests that men should be exterminated is an idiot. Also, 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, that is a very real problem, but please get your facts straight.


"Also, 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime"

That is a number that came from one study, from the 1980s, which was conducted by a feminist, and which includes attempted attacks. I am not saying that the problem of women being sexually assaulted should be ignored, but the 1-in-4 figure is the second highest to have been reported (1-in-3 is the highest; some studies have found less than 1-in-50) and was meant to be shocking. The experimental methodology used to find that number was based on the hypothesis that using words like "rape" would trigger a denial in the women be surveyed; thus the study asks questions that fit a broad definition of rape, and even the woman who created that survey later admitted that one of the questions about rape was ambiguous and could cover consensual sex.

Don't just parrot numbers you read in feminists literature. Rape is a serious crime; don't diminish its significance or the extent of its harm by claiming that there are nearly a hundred million rape victims in America (which invites people to ask, "Why aren't all those victims in counseling? Is rape really a crime whose victims need counseling?").


> That is a number that came from one study, from the 1980s, which was conducted by a feminist, and which includes attempted attacks.

Upon reading your comment, I went back to look for original source material. You are right, I could not find a source or even mention or that fact. Instead, I found citations for studies that show 1 in 4 women will experience a sexual assault (not just rape) during an academic career, or that 1 in 4 women will experience sexual violence from a partner in their lifetime, or that 1 in 6 American women have been the victim or an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. So I do apologize for having the wrong statistic.

Also, since when does being a feminist automatically disqualify your study or paper?

> Rape is a serious crime; don't diminish its significance or the extent of its harm by claiming that there are nearly a hundred million rape victims in America (which invites people to ask, "Why aren't all those victims in counseling? Is rape really a crime whose victims need counseling?").

There are at least hundreds of thousands of sexual assault survivors in the US, which is horrifying enough. As for what you said about counseling, those kinds of comments are one of the more common kinds of derailment people trot out and you and I both know is there is a large number of reasons why any person is not in counseling (for anything, really): cost, stigma, lack of access to counseling services, etc.

In any case, OPs paranoia about being castrated by angry feminists is laughable and spreads FUD about feminism, esp. in regard to what rad fems consider feminism to be.


>Since when does being a feminist automatically diqualify your study or paper?

I think what he was trying to point out was that there might be a conflict of interest with the researcher wanting to over-report rape. Still a bit of a stretch, but possible.


Ignoring the exact percentage you discuss below (I don't care if it's 1-in-4 or 1-in-50 - it's still too damn much!) do you happen to know a) what are the long term trends worldwide for this statistic and b) where in the world this number is the lowest (and maybe: why, but I don't think this has an easy answer)?


"do you happen to know a) what are the long term trends worldwide for this statistic and b) where in the world this number is the lowest (and maybe: why, but I don't think this has an easy answer)?"

I wish I did, but I do not. As far as I know, the UN collects statistics that are based on police records, which are notoriously unreliable when it comes to rape, and I am not even sure how one could gather reliable statistics in places where victims are literally blamed for being raped (incredibly, such places exist). If someone wants to point out other sources, please do.

What I can say, which is relevant to (b), is where the highest number of rapes is occurring: Central Africa. In Congo, rape is being used as a military tactic and that is just the beginning of the sexual violence there; despite an official end to the war, the fighting has not really ended, and it is now being carried about by militias that have loose affiliations with various governments and rebel groups in the region. Consider yourself fortunate that you do not live there, and think about that fact every time you buy a mobile phone (for more info, take a look at Steve Jobs' statements on tantalum).




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