Study shows endocannabinoids' role in forming habits
The habitual behavior pathophysiology study focused on how habitual behaviors -- like driving home from work -- can become a habit. The study evaluated the key differences between these habitual behaviors and goal-directed behaviors, such as driving on unfamiliar roads.
The researchers trained and studied mice to evaluate endocannabinoids and habitual functions.
“Mice were trained to receive a food reward in two different ways,” David Lovinger, chief of the NIAAA Laboratory for Integrative Neuroscience, said. “One way required the animal to respond out of habit, while the second way demanded it to perform behaviors that were goal-directed.”
This research is important because people who have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) cannot transition from habitual to non-habitual behaviors. Other disorders connected to poor decision-making, like addiction, may also be included in this study, which showed the importance of endocannabinoids in developing habits. Treating endocannabinoids may be useful for treating OCD and other disorders.
“The new findings point to a previously unknown mechanism in the brain that regulates the transition between goal-directed and habitual behaviors,” NIAAA Director George Koob said. “As we learn more about this mechanism, it could reveal how the brain forms habits and, more specifically, how both endocannabinoids and cannabinoid abuse can influence habitual behavior pathophysiology.”
Organizations in this story
National Institutes of Health 9000 Rockville Pike Bethesda, MD - 20892