How Old Habits Die


When two or more neurons (Brain Cells) communicate with each other, a synapse is formed. A synapse is very much like a bridge, built inside the brain, connecting various neurons to each other.

If a synapse continues firing on a daily basis, and if this synapse appears to be building more and more bridges, recruiting more and more neurons into its synapse, the Basal Ganglia (Fuel Efficiency & Habit Manager of the Brain) takes notice. It will grow a dendrite up into this growing synapse area to investigate.

If, after its investigation, the Basal Ganglia determines that the synapse is not going away, it will mark it as a Habit.

Once a synapse is marked as a habit, it stays marked as a habit, forever.

However, if for some reason an individual decides to change a habit (hard to do), over time the Habit synapse will become obsolete (unused). Because the Basal Ganglia already has a dendrite monitoring the Habit synapse, when it notices that the synapse is not longer active, it will send a message to the brain’s defense/janitorial crew, Microglial Neural Cells.

Microglial Neural Cells serve two functions withing the brain:

  1. Immune System – Microglial Cells are the brain’s second line of defense against unwelcomed intruders: viruses, bacteria or parasites that somehow are able to breach the Blood-Brain Barrier (the brain’s first line of defense). These Microglial Cells will attack the intruders, killing them and then dismantling them.
  2. Janitorial Crew – Microglial Cells disassemble existing neurons that are impaired or no longer functioning. They also disconnect synapses that are no longer being used – even if the synapse had previously been marked as a Habit by the Basal Ganglia.

So, yes, habits can be broken. And if they stay broken for a long time, Microglial Cells will eventually be called into action to dismantle the bridge infrastructure the Habit Neurons created. Goodbye habit.

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Thomas C. Corley About Thomas C. Corley

Tom Corley is a bestselling author, speaker, and media contributor for Business Insider, CNBC and a few other national media outlets.

His Rich Habits research has been read, viewed or heard by over 50 million people in 25 countries around the world.

Besides being an author, Tom is also a CPA, CFP, holds a master’s degree in taxation and is President of Cerefice and Company, a CPA firm in New Jersey.
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