MORGANTOWN, W.Va. —New and potentially significant breakthroughs in treating people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and substance abuse disorder are potentially on the horizon thanks to research done at the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute.

The work of the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute and its director, Dr. Ali Rezai, was featured on Sunday’s edition of news magazine-style show 60 Minutes.

Dr. Ali Rezai

Rezai, who was featured in two segments, said the addiction treatment uses a focused ultrasound on a specific area of the brain. He compared the effect of the ultrasound beam to rebooting a computer. In this case, “rebooting” effectively means resetting the brain to control and even remove cravings.

“We are resetting the brain and allowing people more control,” Rezai said during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.” “Cutting the cravings and reducing them so people are not being driven by the next fix or the next drink because the cravings are down.”

Similarly, ultrasound can be used to open the blood-brain barrier, Rezai said. This temporary opening allows for significantly increased efficacy in treating and reducing beta amyloid plaque that attaches itself to the brain, creating the systems of Alzheimer’s disease.

The process is non-invasive, which is critical to Dr. Rezai.

“For addictions of all kinds—substances, alcohol, drugs,” Rezai said. “It’s even for behavioral addictions—eating disorders, gambling, or social media addiction.”

This treatment, pioneered at the Morgantown-based facility, remains experimental at this time.

“The initial results are very encouraging in reducing cravings, drug intake, and even making people who have suffered for years and decades with addiction become abstinent,” Rezai said.

The goal is to make this treatment available to more people, possibly in an outpatient setting.

“You come in, lay down in the MRI, a helmet goes on your head, and the ultrasound beam is delivered to the part of the brain involving addiction, then you get off the table and go home,” Rezai said. “Our goal is to work harder, do more research, and get more clinical trials.”

For now, the treatment is reserved for those who have continued to suffer from addiction and have failed over a long period of time.

“People who have tried in-patient treatment, residential treatment, and out-patient treatments and are taking medications and behavioral therapy are still failing,” Rezai said. “Even people who have overdosed or have had multiple overdoses, so it’s for people with severe addiction disorders.”