Normally it takes 21 days to break bad habits, right? Actually that isn’t quite true, although that notion is often shared as “fact.” It varies depending on how severe your habit or addiction really is, and can take many weeks or months.
If you were a rat, you could switch off bad habits instantly!
Just ask Assistant Professor Kyle Smith, who recently became part of the Dartmouth Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences faculty. He was involved in a study that successfully stopped bad habits in rats, and he will be following that up with work on how this could apply to people.
The ground-breaking study involved identification of the brain cells that are a part of forming and dropping habits.
They then placed photosensitive DNA into the cortex of the rat’s brains and a fiber optic implant. By flashing a light on the cells they were able to quickly stop habits and keep new ones from forming!
That is really exciting news, and could potentially allow help for addiction and obsessive compulsive behaviors, and possibly even conditions like Autism.
Smith has been interested in the brain’s limbic system and the mechanisms for rewards, motivation, and learning since he worked on his dissertation from the University of Michigan.
For those of you who are lucky enough to live close to Dartmouth, he will be teaching classes there in Neuroscience. During the winter semester he will be teaching “Neuroscience of Reward” and in the spring the course offered will be “Neuroscience of Motivation.”
Read more about this study on the Dartmouth website:
Scientists Identify an Off Switch for Bad Habits