Habits may be difficult to change, but now at least we have an insight into how they form.
When a group of neurons fire simultaneously, the activity appears as a brainwave. Different brainwave-frequencies are linked to different tasks in the brain.
To track how brainwaves change during learning, Ann Graybiel and Mark Howe at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology used electrodes to analyse brainwaves in the ventromedial striatum of rats while they were taught to navigate a maze.
As rats were learning the task their brain activity showed bursts of fast gamma waves. Once the rats mastered the task, their brainwaves slowed to almost a quarter of their initial frequency, becoming beta waves. Graybiel’s team suspects this transition reflects when learning becomes habit.
Graybiel says the slower brainwaves may be the brain weeding out excess activity to refine behaviour. She suggests it might be possible to boost the rate at which you learn a skill by enhancing such beta-wave activity.
(via New Scientist)