Have Bad Habits? Certain Brain Cells May Be the Cause

iStock

A single, rare type of nerve cell located deep within the brain controls other cells that drive habitual behavior, suggests a mouse study conducted by researchers at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Habit formation boosted the activity of this control cell in laboratory mice, and blocking this activity broke habitual behavior.

Previous research had pointed to a rare type of nerve cell in an area of the forebrain called the subcortical basal ganglia. Researchers suspected this cell served as a master conductor of widespread changes in the brain associated with habitual behavior.

By studying brain activity in lever-pressing mice, they discovered that forming habits made the cells more excitable, and using a drug to suppress them reverted brain activity to its “pre-habit” activity pattern. Results of the study, which were published in eLife, may one day be helpful in developing treatments for addictions and compulsions.

Sourced from: Duke University