Habitual and Goal-Directed Behavior

I really enjoyed listening through everyone’s chalk talks last week. As more people kept presenting, I felt like I was able to tap into so many different subfields and essential questions in biological research. Biology extends from observing the neural behavior in our brains, to the engineering of medical technology, to even the measuring of insect populations in streams. I could go on, but we were all there those three days.

Tonight I want to focus on Min Ju Lee’s research on habitual and goal-directed behavior observed through the change of brain circuits. She works with mice to measure these behaviors by having them in a cage and providing a stimuli to respond to. She explained that the stimulus, in this case, was a lever that would give the mice food when used. Overtime, the mice developed goal and habitual driven behavior. Goal driven behavior would look like the mice using the lever in order to get the food. There’s a purpose behind the action. Habitual driven behavior would be the mice using the lever just for the sake of it. There wouldn’t be a purpose behind the action.

Min Ju looks at the brain to identify these behaviors in the mice- the stratum, in particular. This is because the stratum can initiate or inhibit movement. The DMS tends to activate when the mice’s behavior is goal driven and the DLS activated when the mice’s behavior is habitual driven. Zach asked a really good question in the end that I felt like allowed Min Ju to elaborate more on the mice behavior. He asked how it is for certain than there won’t be any novel behavior? To this she answered that there’s a timeline for behavior and they work on the mice when they’ve passed that point of novel behavior. I thought that was really interesting because I didn’t think their minds would work as a step 1, step 2 kind of deal, but I guess they are just mice. Much of Min Ju’s work would help there be better understanding of where OCD and more comes from.

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