Bad-Habit Neurons Identified

Be it smoking, drinking too much alcohol, eating junk or any other bad habit to that matter have neurobiological roots (dorsolateral-striatum) responsible for the repetitive stimulus behavior. A research team from Duke University medical center, North Carolina, recently found in depth, that a rare type of striatal brain cells known as FSI (fast spiking interneuron) are responsible for habit formation. These investigations are published in the journal eLife.

The previous study showed that the striatum neurons fire at each other in two pathways – excitatory go pathway and inhibitory stop pathway. But this study reveals, FSIs are very rare and may only make up 1% of the striatum neurons but they are connected to 95% of main neurons in the stop/go pathways. Considering the brain activity in mice, the researchers found that formation of habit made the FSIs more excitable and when the mice were administered a drug by chemogenetics which decreased the firing of FSIs resulting in reversion to their pre-habit neural activity patterns, and hence the habit formation was stopped.

Prof. Calakos said, “We find that this cell is a master controller of habitual behavior, and it appears to do this by re-orchestrating the message sent by the outgoing neurons.” These findings may show a path to towards new treatments for substance abuse, addictions and other compulsive behaviors.

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