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What Makes Habits So Hard to Break

Update Date: Jan 25, 2016 04:06 PM EST
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Are you addicted to junk food? According to a recent study, this happens because a habits leaves an indelible impression on certain circuits of our brain. The research is directed towards understanding the way habits like sugar and other food addictions manifest in our brain and recommend new strategies to break these habits. Researchers from Duke University trained a healthy mouse to form a sugar habit of different levels of severity, a process that involved pressing a lever to get sweet treats. The animals that became addicted to the sweets kept pressing the lever even if the treats were no longer available.

The researchers then compared the brains of mice that created the habit and the ones did not get addicted to sweets. The researchers examined the electrical activity in the basal ganglia, a part of brain that controls compulsive behavior and motor signals as well as drug addiction, reported NDTV.

According to the researchers, the pathways in the brain were highly active in the mice addicted to sugar. They also revealed that there were was a difference of timing in activation of the come and go pathways. In the mice that had formed a habit, the pathway for go was activated before the stop pathway. However, for the non-addicted mice, the stop pathway activated before go signal.

To analyze if this habit can be broken, the researchers encouraged the mice to alter their habits and rewarded them if they stopped pressing the lever. The mice that had weaker go pathways were able to break these habits successfully. "One day, we may be able to target these circuits in people to help promote habits that we want and kick out those that we do not want," said Nicole Calakos from Duke University, India Today reported

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