Research Reveals Technique To Switch On/Off Behavioral Traits

Research Reveals Technique To Switch On/Off Behavioral Traits
Red geranium petal cells Umberto Salvagnin / Flickr CC BY 2.0

It is said that habits cannot be changed easily, but how cool would it be if you could switch them on and off? Recent research conducted by the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has found that it is possible to switch on/off a habit among mice.


It is achieved through what they call a “chemogenetic” technique that works on two cell surface receptors, stopping certain behaviors such as eating habits in mice. These receptors are responsible for controlling brain function and complex behaviors.

When not working properly, the receptors can cause problems, especially when they go off-track, and diseases such as schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, depression, epilepsy can set it. The receptor can play a major role in digestive disorders, cancer and other severe health issues.

This is the first tool from the NIH BRAIN Initiative. According to Bryan L. Roth, the professor of Protein Therapeutics and Translational Proteomics working at the UNC School of Medicine, this new technique will provide a more efficient way to target the brain circuits responsible for different human ailments.

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The technology, Designer Receptor Exclusively Activated by a Designer Drug or, in short, “DREADDs,” has been invented by Roth and his team in 2007 to selectively modulate particular types of receptors present in the brain.

However, this technology can be used to manipulate a receptor in only one direction; that is, either it can be put on or off. But, reports published in the journal Neuron reveals the latest technology that can target two different receptors present on the same neuron.

This latest invention can be seen as a step forward to being able to switch off bad eating habits.