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posted by martyb on Wednesday September 13, @10:57PM   Printer-friendly
from the selectivity? dept.

Duke University neuroscientists have pinpointed a single type of neuron deep within the brain that serves as a "master controller" of habits.

The team found that habit formation boosts the activity of this influential cell, and that shutting it down with a drug is enough to break habits in sugar-seeking mice. Though rare, this cell exerts its control through a web of connections to more populous cells that are known to drive habitual behavior.

[...] The team trained otherwise healthy mice to receive a tasty treat every time they pressed a lever. Many mice developed a lever-pressing habit, continuing to press the lever even when it no longer dispensed treats, and despite having had an opportunity to eat all the treats they wanted beforehand.

The team then compared the brain activity of mice who had developed a lever-pressing habit with those who hadn't. They focused on an area deep within the brain called the striatum, which contains two sets of neural pathways: a "go" pathway, which incites an action, and a "stop" pathway, which inhibits action.

They found that both the go and stop pathways were stronger in habit-driven mice. Habit formation also shifted the relative timing of the two pathways, making the go pathway fire before the stop.

In the current study, the team wanted to understand the circuitry that coordinates these various long lasting changes in the brain. They had a hunch that a single type of rare cell in the striatum called the fast-spiking interneuron (FSI) might serve as master conductor of the widespread changes in the outgoing neurons' activity.

[...] CITATION:  "Striatal fast-spiking interneurons selectively modulate circuit output and are required for habitual behavior," Justin K. O’Hare, Haofang Li, Namsoo Kim, Erin Gaidis, Kristen Ade, Jeff Beck, Henry Yin and Nicole Calakos. eLife, Sept. 5, 2017. DOI: # 10.7554/eLife.26231

Beware, it's your fast-spiking interneurons that marketers and governments are out to control. Protect them.


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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 14, @02:33AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 14, @02:33AM (#567586)

    --end of line--

  • (Score: 2) by Rivenaleem on Thursday September 14, @03:46PM

    by Rivenaleem (3400) on Thursday September 14, @03:46PM (#567856)

    G-23 Paxilon Hydrochlorate or "Pax" was a chemical compound added to the air processors in order to pacify the populace, by the Union of Allied Planets. An Alliance research team on Miranda discovered that the Pax was effective with 99.9% of people. It was such an effective means of pacifying that the people stopped doing anything, they simply waited for death. However, a tenth of a percent (0.1%) of the population had the opposite reaction. They became highly aggressive, committing unspeakable acts including cannibalism, rape, and self-mutilation. These people would come to be known as Reavers.

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