Stressed brains rely on habit

Exposure to chronic stress causes alterations in brain anatomy that may compel rats to rely too much on routine, even when a change in circumstances calls for a change in behavior, according to a new study published this week in Science. Image: Wikimedia commons, Janet StephensThe study provides "a really nice animal model for a subtle, important problem with cognition that can be caused by chronic stress in humans," neuroscientist linkurl:Robert Sapolsky;http://med.stanford.edu/profiles/Robert

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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Jul 29, 2009
Exposure to chronic stress causes alterations in brain anatomy that may compel rats to rely too much on routine, even when a change in circumstances calls for a change in behavior, according to a new study published this week in Science.
Image: Wikimedia commons, Janet Stephens
The study provides "a really nice animal model for a subtle, important problem with cognition that can be caused by chronic stress in humans," neuroscientist linkurl:Robert Sapolsky;http://med.stanford.edu/profiles/Robert_Sapolsky/ of Stanford University School of Medicine, who was not involved in the work, wrote in an email. "Plus some excellent neurobiology to go along with it." Habit formation is believed to be a way to conserve cognitive resources and make decisions more efficiently, as habits do not require constant evaluation of potential consequences. Driving home from work, for example, quickly becomes a matter of routine, leaving your mind free to daydream without missing a turn. However,...




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