Research press release


Nature Communications

Neuroscience: Brain areas that are a force of habit


すべての動物は、その行為の結果を内部評価することが必要となる状況に常に遭遇しており、習慣指向的行為と目的指向的行為の切り替えができることが重要となっている。目標指向的行為と習慣的行為の学習と実行の基盤となる神経回路は一部解明されているが、こうした行為や習慣が神経回路にどのように符号化されているのかはほとんどわかっていない。今回、Christina GremelとRui Costaは、マウスを対象とした新しい行動課題を開発した。この課題は、レバーを押す作業で、目標指向的戦略と習慣的戦略のいずれかに即座に切り替えて作業を行うことが求められるが、毎回、同じ報酬が与えられるというものだ。GremelとCostaは、脳の神経活動の記録をとり、目的指向的行為への切り替えに脳の眼窩前頭皮質領域と背内側線条体領域が必要で、習慣的行為への切り替えに背外側線条体領域が必要なことを見いだした。


The neural processes that are responsible for switching between habit- and goal-directed actions in rodents are described in a study published in Nature Communications this week. The findings provide new insights into the way the brain is wired to deal with everyday real-life situations and could provide information about systems that are disrupted in disorders such as obsessive compulsive disorder.

All animals constantly encounter circumstances that require an internal evaluation of the consequences of their actions and it is important that that they are able to shift between habit- and goal-directed actions. Although the neural circuitry underlying the learning and execution of goal-directed or habitual actions has in part been identified, little is known about how these actions and habits are encoded in these circuits. Christina Gremel and Rui Costa develop a novel mouse behavioural task where mice readily shift between performing lever pressing actions using either a goal-directed or a habitual strategy but with the same reward in each instance. By taking neuronal recordings from the brain, they find that the orbital frontal cortex and the dorsal medial striatum areas of the brain are necessary for behavioural shifts towards goal-directed actions, while the dorsal lateral striatum is necessary for behavioural shifts towards habitual actions.

Although these studies were carried out in mice, the authors hope that these findings will further our understanding of disorders where the balance between habits and goal-directed actions is disrupted such as addiction and obsessive compulsive disorder.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms3264

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