DURHAM, N.C. — Some habits are helpful, such as automatically washing your hands before a meal or driving the same route to work every day. They accomplish an important task while freeing up valuable brain space.

But other habits — like eating a cookie every day after work — seem to stick around even when the outcomes aren’t so good.

Duke University neuroscientists have pinpointed a single type of neuron deep within the brain that serves as a “master controller” of habits.

The team found that habit formation boosts the activity of this influential cell, and that shutting it down with a drug is enough to break habits in sugar-seeking mice. Though rare, this cell exerts its control through a web of connections to more populous cells that are known to drive habitual behavior.

Read more at Duke Today