Rats Love Chocolate

Apparently rats love chocolate. This is something I have in common with rats.

In an experiment, scientists monitored their brains as they went through a maze, at the end of which was chocolate. (yum.) The scientists watched the rats’ brains light up in various sections as they searched for the good smelling stuff – and then they repeated the experiments over a series of days.

I read about this experiment in Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit. Here’s what happened after a few days, according to Duhigg:

“It didn’t need to choose which direction to turn, and so decision-making centers of the brain went quiet. All it had to do was recall the quickest path to the chocolate.”

The rats’ brains learned the easiest, most efficient way to achieve what they wanted and what once took a great deal of attention became a habit, it became easy.

This is very like what happens in our human brains when engaging with the Feldenkrais Method and explains why and how the Method Works.

“This process – in which the brain converts a sequence of actions into an automatic routine – is known as “chunking” and it’s at the root of how habits form.”

In the Feldenkrais Method, we explore a sequence of actions (also known as Movements) and as soon as our brains recognize the efficiency and ease of what we’re doing, it starts to chunk the sequence, allowing something that initially takes a great deal of attention to do, to become automatic, to become a habit. We can therefore create brand new somatic habits simply by taking the time to investigate the easiest pathways of movement. Doing an Awareness through Movement lesson can be a little bit like that rat in the maze, at first sniffing around for a reward, at first you might not be clear where you’re going, you just try this and that direction before you find an easier way. And that easier way its own reward. You won’t even need chocolate at the end of the maze. (But you could have some anyway. It’s delicious.)

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“Habits, scientists say, emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. Left to its own devices, the brain will make almost any routine into a habit because habits will allow our minds to ramp down more often.”