That habits leave a lasting trace in the brain, and that people don’t think about what they are doing, for 40% of their time, says the Department of science “Газеты.Ru”.
How and why habits are formed — this question the researchers are asking for a long time. One of the first Russian scientists to make a breakthrough in the formation of habits in animals and humans, are Ivan Pavlov and Ivan Sechenov. To understand the mechanisms of habits, scientists have conducted many studies, part of which became known Pavlov’s experiments on the formation of conditioned reflex in dogs. As a result of one of these experiments the dog began to stand out gastric juice when turning on green lights. Previously when you turn on the light bulb always gave her food, and after a certain number of repetitions of this sequence the dog has developed a conditional reflex — the response of the organism to the stimulus.
The human body creates conditional reflexes just the same.
These reflexes are formed throughout life due to some life circumstances, not fixed genetically, we call the word “habits”.
Different forms of awards and recognition may well be attributed to the reinforcements that encourage people to productive work, more successful tasks and other accomplishments.
People, without noticing, over the years develop many habits: they construct graphs and a clear daily routines, get used to the place and method of work, lifestyle. Any changes of the usual things lead to stress, worries and fears.
The people are of the opinion that the habit is only a psychological dependence, from which we can deliver willpower. However, scientists have a different point of view on this matter.
Scientists from Duke University in North Carolina claim that habits leave a lasting trace in the brain. The journal Neuron recently published a study about how our habits and preferences are recorded in the brain. According to lead researcher Nicole Kalakos, MD, Professor of neurology and neurobiology, medical center of Duke University, one day we will be able to develop in humans need habits and get rid of unwanted.
In the study, experts formed the habit of mice to sweet: mice received tiny candy after pressing the lever. Animals that have developed a craving for sugar, has continued to pull the levers, even when the treat is no longer received.
The experts compared the brains of mice, in which this habit was formed, and mice without this habit. In particular, the scientists analyzed electrical activity in the basal ganglia region of the brain partially responsible for motor activity and compulsive behavior, including drug addiction.
In the ganglia there are two types of communications: one transmits the command to continue the action (push forward) and the other about stop. It was found that both types of communications much more actively worked in mice generated with a sweet tooth. This discovery surprised scientists because it was previously thought that the way responsible for the stop signal to prevent the behavior in the framework of the new dependence. In addition, it was found that the formation of preferences is changing the order of information transfer in the brain: the “dependent” mice motion alarms preceded the stop signals, in healthy — on the contrary.
Working with mice, scientists noticed that this “knocked off” the channels after the acquisition of the habits extends to the entire region of the ganglion. Therefore, researchers do not exclude the possibility that the tendency to make one will develop attachment to another not too useful for healthy things.
Next, the researchers decided to check whether you can save mice from this habit and began to reward the animals that ceased to press the lever.
Most successful was otocoris mouse with a weak transmission channel of the message on continuation of action. While researchers are not sure how these results can be applied to people — ganglia have a wide range of functions and their role in the interaction of body systems studied until the end.
Some researchers now are exploring the possibility of treating drug addiction using transcerebral magnetic stimulation — a technique that uses magnetic pulses to stimulate the brain.
Meanwhile, Kalakos with colleagues continues to study the differences from the usual habits of problem that can lead to Intrusive state, and hopes that the discoveries will help to understand better the mechanisms of human brain and control the habits and dependencies.
Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of technology also investigated the formation of habits.
In the experiment, rats were trained to perceive signals when passing the T-shaped corridor. Right in response to the signals from the left turn, the rat received chocolate milk. If at another signal they turned right, we got sugar water. Once the habit was formed, the researchers stopped giving the animal a reward, but the rats still continued to follow the instructions. The next step was adding in chocolate milk (to get it, the rodent had to go to the left) of lithium chloride, which caused mild nausea. Rats continued to run in the right direction, but the milk did not drink.
After fixing this behavior, the scientists checked whether you can break the habit, breaking the connection parts of the prefrontal cortex, which is partly responsible for the formation of habits. Using optogenetics — a technique that allows to suppress certain cells of the brain — researchers for a few seconds was off the activity of cortical area in the … the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. They did it at a time when the rat ran up to the fork.
Almost at once the animals ceased to run to the left, where they waited for the sickening chocolate milk.
After changing the habits of rats always started running to the right — even if the signal is commanded to turn the other way. But, to the surprise of scientists, when they tried to re-break the habit formed by artificial means, the animals returned to their former behavior. It turns out that an old habit is not forgotten, but was just hidden by the formation of the new.
Although the researchers believe that this intervention should not yet be used to change people’s habits, they claim that the technology can be modified and improved to be used for the treatment of diseases associated with obsessive behaviour and addictions.
A large part of our daily life is filled with habits. Often we do not notice them, as to follow it automatically: studies show that about 40% of our daily actions are executed every day in almost identical situations. Habits emerge through associative learning. We find patterns of behavior that allow us to achieve the goals, and then repeat the action in a relatively similar context and create the Association between action and result.
During his speech at the 122nd Annual conference of the American psychological Association Wendy wood (psychology Professor from the University of South Carolina) talked about how habits work and can we somehow change them.
When we face a problem, we act in ways that will give us the result that is associated with our intentions. Intentions can change quickly, as people are able to make informed decisions depending on the current situation and their future plans. However, when we are faced with a familiar situation, we often do not think about how to do this, because our brains remember the specific procedure in a similar situation and have already formed a habit.
When this known pattern of behavior will not always be the best, but it is very difficult to get to change a learned behavior.
During one experiment the subjects were asked to rate the taste of the popcorn — the people were given fresh and stale popcorn. As expected, fresh was always better. But, when participants were given popcorn during the movie, those who had the habit of eating it when watching movies, ate as much stale popcorn as others fresh.
However, Professor wood finds in such behavior and positive points: she argues that
thanks to the habits we can focus on other things (remember that because of the habits we have 40% of the time I don’t think about what we do).
Can we change our habits? It is focused on advertising, educational programs, seminars and weight loss program. However, it should be remembered that such events successfully increase our motivation and desire, give us the knowledge and strategy of action, but they are all aimed only at the “conscious” part of our brain. Programs can change people’s intentions, but in the end do not change their behavior.
According to Wendy wood, there are three basic principles that need to be guided to effectively change habits. First, you need to find a convenient time to form a new course of action — this can be a moving or changing jobs.
When we change the prerequisites for behavior within the framework of old habits, it becomes much easier to form new behaviors.
The second principle States that the key role played by repetition. Studies have shown that a person might need
from 15 to 254 days to truly form a new habit (not 21 days, as the creators of some of the trainings).
The third principle says about the stability of the environment is to have the new habit quickly formed, we need to create the same with this conditions and support them, because a certain behavior is easier to reproduce, if it is repeated in the same context.