Researchers at MIT have identified a region of the brain that acts as a switch between old and new habits and can be affected by external influence.
Researchers from the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT conducted an experiment on a group of three mice that were made to turn to the left by enticing them with chocolate.
When the chocolate was removed, the mice continued to turn left and even when a nausea inducing substance was added to the chocolate, they did not veer from their habit.
However when the researchers turned off the activity in the region of the brain's prefrontal cortex a few seconds as the mice were deciding which way to turn, they turned to the right. "We've always thought - and I still do - that the value of a habit is you don't have to think about it. It frees up your brain to do other things. It frees up your brain to do other things. However, it doesn't free up all of it. There's some piece of your cortex that's still devoted to that control", lead researcher Ann Graybiel said. The study has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.