A technique that stimulates the brain with magnetic pulses has shown some early success in battling addiction, and more extensive trials are now underway.
One of the areas of the brain that addiction targets is the prefrontal cortex, which regulates impulse control. In 2013, an article in the prestigious journal Nature proposed that stimulating this part of the brain could reduce addictive cravings, and reported that a test using rats that had become addicted to cocaine resulted in dramatic improvements.
An Italian doctor named Luigi Gallimberti began using the technique – called transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS – on addicts, and reported encouraging results with his first 32 patients. He has now treated more than 300 people.
More rigorous, controlled tests of TMS are now in the works at institutions in Baltimore, South Carolina and Mexico City.