The Power of Habit

by

Charles Duhigg

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Brain Scans and Studies Symbol Analysis

Brain Scans and Studies Symbol Icon

Brain scans represent science’s power to give people control over their own destiny by revealing the secrets of human nature. Duhigg emphasizes that, in the last few decades, neuroimaging techniques have revolutionized science by allowing researchers to identify the links between specific behaviors and activity in specific areas of the brain. For instance, by scanning rats’ brains, MIT researchers learned about the basal ganglia’s role in habit formation and identified patterns of brain activity consistent with the cue-routine-reward habit loop.

These brain scans are the basis for Duhigg’s recommendations for habit change. Thus, they show how science’s remarkable new tools give people remarkable new tools for improving themselves. They also offer proof that self-improvement works. For example, Lisa Allen’s brain scans show how neural connections associated with new, better habits overrode the connections associated with her old, unhealthy ones.

At the same time, brain scans might appear to challenge people’s sense of free will by showing them how much of their neural activity is unconscious and beyond their immediate control. For instance, Reza Habib’s studies show that gamblers seem to continue playing because of unconscious processes in the basal ganglia, not because of conscious decisions. But in reality, it’s just the opposite. Brain scans don’t hamper human freedom—they unleash it. By giving people the knowledge they need to train their own brains and become the people they want to be, brain scans demonstrate how humankind’s technological innovations give people more and more control over their own fate.

Brain Scans and Studies Quotes in The Power of Habit

The The Power of Habit quotes below all refer to the symbol of Brain Scans and Studies. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Habits, Human Behavior, and Success Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Random House edition of The Power of Habit published in 2014.
Prologue Quotes

When researchers began examining images of Lisa’s brain, they saw something remarkable: One set of neurological patterns—her old habits—had been overridden by new patterns. They could still see the neural activity of her old behaviors, but those impulses were crowded out by new urges. As Lisa’s habits changed, so had her brain.

Related Characters: Charles Duhigg (speaker), Lisa Allen
Related Symbols: Brain Scans and Studies
Page Number: xiv
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

Notice how closely this study hews to the Golden Rule of habit change: Even when alcoholics’ brains were changed through surgery, it wasn’t enough. The old cues and cravings for rewards were still there, waiting to pounce. The alcoholics only permanently changed once they learned new routines that drew on the old triggers and provided a familiar relief.

Related Characters: Charles Duhigg (speaker)
Related Symbols: Brain Scans and Studies
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:
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Brain Scans and Studies Symbol Timeline in The Power of Habit

The timeline below shows where the symbol Brain Scans and Studies appears in The Power of Habit. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue: The Habit Cure
Habits, Human Behavior, and Success Theme Icon
Habit Change and Personal Growth  Theme Icon
In the laboratory, brain scans clearly showed the change in Allen’s habits. The neurological patterns associated with her old habits... (full context)
Chapter 1: The Habit Loop: How Habits Work
Habits, Human Behavior, and Success Theme Icon
...discovered that while Pauly couldn’t recommend basic information, he could still develop complex habits. Pauly’s brain scans showed that he had lost a small chunk of the middle of his brain. This... (full context)
Habits, Human Behavior, and Success Theme Icon
...are labs full of miniature surgery tables, where neurologists implant sensors in rats’ brains. The experiments done here are the key to understanding how Eugene Pauly formed new habits. In the... (full context)
Habits, Human Behavior, and Success Theme Icon
Habit Change and Personal Growth  Theme Icon
...which can miss important cues, like a car speeding into the street behind the driveway. Brain scans show that to compensate for this danger, the brain’s activity spikes right at the beginning... (full context)
Chapter 2: The Craving Brain: How to Create New Habits
Habit Change and Personal Growth  Theme Icon
While studying monkeys’ brains in the 1980s, the Cambridge professor Wolfram Schultz noticed that some monkeys liked... (full context)
Chapter 6: The Power of a Crisis: How Leaders Create Habits Through Accident and Design
Habits, Human Behavior, and Success Theme Icon
Habit Change and Personal Growth  Theme Icon
Social Habits and Cultural Influence Theme Icon
The Moral Consequences of Habits Theme Icon
...which side of his head needed the operation. When a nurse proposed pulling up the brain scans to check, the neurosurgeon surgeon yelled at her, modified the man’s medical consent forms, and... (full context)
Chapter 9: The Neurology of Free Will: Are We Responsible for Our Habits?
The Moral Consequences of Habits Theme Icon
The neuroscientist Reza Habib scanned the brains of problem gamblers and casual gamblers while they looked at a slot machine. Habib found... (full context)