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A Master Controller Neuron is Responsible for Good Habits

Author:NeuroGym Team

Good Habits Come From the Master Controller Neuron

Why is it that some good habits are easy to build and stick to but others are a challenge? Why does breaking certain bad habits seem impossible?

These are questions that most of us have thought about during our lives, and scientists are no different. For decades, researchers have conducted studies to understand habits, and a recent study from Duke University presents interesting insights.

Master Controller Neurons 

Scientists at Duke University conducted a study to understand how habits are broken and built. They found that the fast-spiking interneuron (FSI) seems to control habits, however, this is a very rare cell.

Rare Cells and Habits

The role of FSIs is to supply information and allow for plasticity in learning. FSIs may be rare but they connect to many of the main neurons in the brain and aid in communication throughout the neural network.

In a study in rats, the researchers found higher levels of FSI activity when the rats formed habits. In contrast, when suppressed by drugs, the FSI didn’t respond to habits (and broke them).

The FSIs also altered messages sent by neurons. In essence, when you learn a new habit your brain changes its wiring. This is known as neuroplasticity.

Breaking Bad Habits is Possible

Good habits

The research study shows that the FSI can be crucial in breaking bad habits. The striatum, an area of the brain containing FSIs, is responsible for habit formation.

The striatum consists of pathways corresponding to “stop” and “go” behaviors. It can help you take action (go) and or inhibit action (stop). In the study, learning new habits activated both pathways, but when suppressed by drugs, the pathways returned to the patterns they had prior to habit formation.

These results show that it’s possible to overcome bad habits by developing good habits, especially if you can keep FSI activity high. The researchers believe that these findings may help people to overcome compulsive and addictive behaviors in the future.

Reinforcing Neurological Patterns 

The striatum also controls feelings of reward or aversion. When you do something positive, the striatum rewards you with dopamine, but when something negative happens, you feel upset about it.

Positive reinforcement is essential when it comes to building good habits. The more you repeat the same behavior, the more those “stop” and “go” pathways are working. Keeping them active with repetitive behaviors teaches your brain that it’s a habit. It rewires the brain because the brain accepts it as a norm.

This phenomenon also explains why it’s easy to fall into bad habits. If you repeat negative behaviors, then your brain accepts them as the truth and they become the norm. Breaking bad habits is possible, but you have to understand that you may fall back into them. Luckily, you can change the situation at any time by eliminating those brain patterns and creating better ones in their place.

The Brain is the Control Center

Your brain is a powerhouse of activity! It processes information, learns, creates mental maps, and controls every function in your body.

Various factors (like mental health, medication, and lifestyle) affect how your brain functions, but you have a say in this situation.

You can learn to leverage your brain, build good habits, and think constructively which will impact other areas of your life. Find out how to do all this and much more at the Brain-A-Thon.

The Power of The Brain 

The research study discussed in the previous section demonstrates the power of the brain. It is capable of learning and change. The fact that you can learn good habits and break bad habits is proof of this already.

Use this knowledge to alter your thinking (and thus your life) for good.

Reframing Thoughts 

A great way to change your brain is by reframing your thoughts.

Thoughts can pop into your head randomly throughout the day or arise when you actively think about something.

Instead of focusing on negative thoughts, think about the situation from a different perspective. This encourages your brain to break existing patterns and reinforces good ideas.

For instance, you might feel like you are going to fail at a specific task. Turn this negative idea into a positive one by reflecting on all the good things you have achieved so far.

Good habits

Changing Beliefs

What you believe about yourself, people, and the world has been ingrained in your thought patterns for a long time. But this too can change.

You might believe that you will never be wealthy, that no one wants to be your friend, or that everyone in the world is untrustworthy. These ideas have been reinforced in your brain over many years. It’s what you know, and your brain will always default to it.

If you get into the good habit of questioning these beliefs, you can prove them to be false. Search for evidence that supports both sides of the argument, consider things from a different perspective, and then determine whether your belief holds weight or is unfounded.

If you can have more wealth now than you did before, have one friend, and trust one person, then you’ve already proven the previous list of beliefs as false. How many more times could you do this? Learn from your investigations and change the way you think.

Altering Behaviors

Your brain’s power can be used to make big changes in your life or to make a bunch of smaller changes that add up to create a big impact. When you think differently, use vision boards, set intentions, and take action, then you can reach your goals.

For example, if you think to yourself “I need an energy drink to get through this day,” you might berate yourself because it’s unhealthy. However, instead of berating yourself, try to identify your true intention—you need energy. Now, think of a healthy way you can achieve it. Get some fresh air, go for a brisk walk, drink a glass of water, or have some fruits and vegetables.

Making Changes

Now that you know you can change your brain, you may feel motivated to do just that. But how does this work? What do you have to do to make lasting changes?

These questions and many more are answered at the Brain-A-Thon! Featuring top brain experts, this event will provide everything you need to know about using the power of your brain.

Developing Good Habits 

The ultimate goal of changing your brain is to build good habits that set you up for success. It can be habits for a healthy lifestyle, to get a promotion, or to grow your business—whatever your heart desires. Good habits are possible if you are willing to commit to them.

Here are some ways to make good habits part of your lifestyle.

Name the Habit

Whether you are building a good habit or breaking bad habits, you need to identify what you are working toward. Name the habit you want to work on. Write it down. Commit to working on your habit daily.

Even when times get tough, you can do this because your brain is wired for change.

Make a Plan

Now that you know what habit you are working on, create a plan to help you stick to it. For example, you could schedule time in your diary to meditate or go to the gym, or you might take 15 minutes at the end of each day to network on LinkedIn.

Be as specific as possible and write down all the steps you have to perform. Do them daily. Whenever you feel stuck, refer back to your plan.

Overcome Triggers and Obstacles

Your brain has been wired in a certain way for a very long time. You are now working on changing it so it’s normal to backtrack occasionally. Identify any triggers or obstacles that may present themselves and come up with ways to overcome these issues.

For example, if your desired habit is eating healthy and you know that the bakery around the corner from work is a distraction, take a different route or pack a healthy snack in advance.

Use Visualization

Visualization is a powerful tool that helps you see yourself achieving your dreams. Imagine what it would feel like to succeed; visualize yourself practicing your good habits. Hold on to that image whenever you feel like giving up.

Reward Yourself

As part of your habit planning, think about small ways you can reward yourself for making progress. For example, going for coffee with a friend, adding stickers to your gratitude journal, or buying a new piece of clothing.

Your rewards should celebrate your success but they shouldn’t undo the good work you’ve already done.

A Lifetime of Success

Breaking bad habits and building good habits don’t happen by chance. You have to set an intention to change, commit to it, and work on it daily. All of these activities start in the brain.

What you think will affect your success in habit-building and all other areas of your life. It’s the reason why you need to get your thoughts under control right now.

Learn how to change your thinking, switch off negative thoughts, and focus on positivity by attending the Brain-A-Thon. It’s free!

About The Author

NeuroGym Team

NeuroGym Team: NeuroGym’s Team of experts consists of neuroscientists, researchers, and staff who are enthusiasts in their fields. The team is committed to making a difference in the lives of others by sharing the latest scientific findings to help you change your life by understanding and using the mindset, skill set and action set to change your brain.

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