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:
- 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.
- 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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