University of Utah using funding for ultrasound research to treat addiction

Apr 19, 2024, 10:00 PM | Updated: 11:11 pm

A team at the University of Utah has received funding to research if ultrasound technology can help...

A team at the University of Utah has received funding to research if ultrasound technology can help addiction. (Canva)


SALT LAKE CITY — Could an ultrasound help cure addiction? A team of researchers at the University of Utah thinks so.

Professor of Psychiatry at Huntsman Mental Health Institute, Dr. Brian Mickey is leading an effort to utilize ultrasound machines to target addiction pathways in the brain.  

“We’re going to the source of the problem,” Mickey told KSL NewsRadio. That source, he said, is deep brain circuits known to cause addiction. “The device can deliver the ultrasound’s generation into these deep brain areas, very precisely.” 

According to a press release, Mickey’s team’s ultimate goal is to “develop this approach into an individually targeted therapeutic intervention [for addiction].” 

Global health non-profit organization Wellcome Leap awarded their team over two million dollars in funding for these efforts. 

“Addictions are brain illnesses,” Mickey said in a press release. “Many psychiatric problems … are caused by [brain circuit] malfunction. This project is an example of our mission to understand how [dysregulated] these neural circuits are … And to develop novel, circuit-targeted interventions that return the brain to a healthy state.” 

Mickey said they’re starting with patients who have a high probability of opioid dependency. They hope to be able to treat others as well. 

Mickey thinks this treatment will be especially helpful for people who have tried other ways of breaking their addiction but haven’t had success.

“For people who don’t respond to current, available approaches and for people who’ve had multiple relapses this could be an approach that works in a completely different way,” Mickey said. 

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University of Utah using funding for ultrasound research to treat addiction