Day#122: You are not your brain!

Day#122: You are not your brain!

Every now and again I include topics that are not directly related to UX but more my thought patterns and ideas on various topics that relate to my professional career. Today’s topic is on habits as a whole and how the brain forms habits, I have recently been eating very unhealthy and have been trying to push myself to get my act together and start eating a more cleaner fresh fruits and veg based diet.. You have probably heard it a million times over and people have become desensitized about hearing how unhealthy certain items that we eat are for our bodies. I know for myself I lived my life eating whatever I wanted, thinking that I would focus on my health if ever I had a health related problem. I am so glad that I have changed my opinions on that as I have gotten older however every now and again I catch myself falling into bad habits. It happens when you are not focusing on your diet, for example having lots of stress at work or in your personal life, staying up to late working or sometimes binge gaming in my case. It is also easy to fall back into bad habits when you are in a rush, for this I decided to do bit of research (as usual) into neuroscience and how habits are formed in the brain. What I found was truly mesmerizing, so much vital information has been discovered about the way we react in situations and how we forms habits, the sad part is many people are not at all aware of their habits. Habits can be formed from a goal based system which then releases Dopamine, the video goes into detail about how a study conducted had rats follow certain sounds to chocolate milk for one sound and a sugary based drink for another sound. The initial part of the goal oriented system involved the prefrontal cortex, and reward signals from Dopamine released in the brain. After the rat has run this specific task hundreds of times the next segment in the study is introduced where one of the drinks is replaced with something that will make the rat nauseous. What shows how strong habits are is that once the habit is formed, once the specific sound rings off the rat still runs towards the nauseating substance over and over irrespective of the outcome. This for me is addiction without a doubt you see how people waste their lives away on alcohol and drugs, I actually have a very close family member that has done this.

Back to the video, once the rat has formed the habit, the action is now related to a different part of the brain altogether. The first action with the goal based system is more related to the executive decision making part of the brain, however when it becomes a habit it is then the more automatic part of the brain that takes over called the sensorimotor cortex. At this point the behavior is very automatic and run by body circuits as the speaker in the video indicates.What is interesting is how the study also goes into detail of how the habit can be removed if a certain part of the brain (Infralimbic cortex) is inactivated, once inactivated the rat does not follow the music and go to the nauseating substance but instead goes for sweet tasting drink that does not make them nauseous.


Relating to the concept of eating healthy and changing bad habits which I mentioned above I would advise you to go to 34:46, here Dr Jeffrey Schwarts discusses how when people hear about healthy eating it just flies over their heads, however when discussing core beliefs and values they are more susceptible to the influence of eating healthy. This in my opinion helps people see the bigger picture more clearly and has them see that their diet is more holistic choice one that influences or perhaps even contradicts their core beliefs and actions. Here is the study and article that Dr Jeffrey Schwarts refers to in his speech. 


In conclusion, from this post you can clearly see that I do way too much research into every little thing haha! On a serious note though I find habits, behaviour and human physcology very interesting. This is one of the core reasons why I love UX because I feel it helps us understand people in a very profound way. My goal for bettering my eating habits will be to create a list of what is important to me and work on positive affirmations that “I am healthy and take care of my body”. Having a clear mind that is not working on unhealthy toxins will certainly help with me holding my concentration and maintaining an equal distribution of energy throughout the day instead of small bursts which I am currently having. I urge everyone to look at things that they are perhaps doing out of habit and work on ways to have habits that improve your life instead, and help you work towards your goals, happy researching!


Bye for now

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