Romans 8:29
“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

Ever wonder why habits are so hard to break? If you think it’s just a matter of weak willpower or cravings that refuse to subside, scientists from Duke University have startling news for you. They have found that habits leave a lasting mark on specific circuits in the brain, priming you to keep engaging in the habitual activities.

Illustration: Basal ganglia in the human brainWhile studying the behaviors of mice, including some mice who had developed a craving for sweets, the scientists found pathways in their basal ganglia which carry either a “go” or a “stop” signal. In mice who had developed a sweet tooth, both the “go” and the “stop” signals were more active than in the non-habit mice. In the non-habit mice, however, the “stop” signal actually preceded the “go” signal.

According to the researchers, these changes were so long-lasting and obvious, it “was possible for the group to predict which mice had formed a habit just by looking at isolated pieces of their brains in a petri dish.”

Dr. Nicole Calakos, the study’s senior investigator, said, “One day, we may be able to target these circuits in people to help promote habits that we want and kick out those that we don’t want.”

One day in the future? Well, Christians don’t have to wait. Through the power of Christ who dwells within us, we can break old habits and establish new habits that make us more like Christ, our Savior.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I pray that You will break the power of habits that are not pleasing in Your sight and replace them with behaviors that conform me to the image of Christ. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.


Author: Steven J. Schwartz
Ref: “Why are habits so hard to break?” ScienceDaily, 1/21/16. Duke University. Justin K. O’Hare, Kristen K. Ade, Tatyana Sukharnikova, Stephen D. Van Hooser, Mark L. Palmeri, Henry H. Yin, Nicole Calakos. “Pathway-Specific Striatal Substrates for Habitual Behavior.” Neuron, 2016; DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2015.12.032. Illustration: Basal ganglia in the human brain. (PD)

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