For all our advances in science and technology, the inner workings of the human brain remain largely a mystery when it comes to some of our habits and addictions. But a new research study from MIT has offered new insight into how we might be able to directly control those habits with simple bursts of light.
The experiment used a T-shaped maze and a group of rat subjects for the study designed to break learned habits using a technique called optogenetics. By adding a light-sensitive protein to the brain of the rats and then flashing a light of a particular color at the subject's eyes, the scientists were able to shut down the neurons associated with the targeted habitual behavior.
The scientists have stopped short of asserting that this method might offer hope of curing drug addictions, but the precision of the experiment's effects on the subjects were so immediate and effective, it's difficult to believe that optogenetics won't somehow find its way into realm of treating human addictive behaviors.
Calling the results humbling, one of the scientists involved in the study said, "the brain is quite surprising sometimes, and we're probably only scratching the surface on how it controls something complex like habits."