An October 31 article in Popular Science indicates that neuroscientists at MIT have identified the region of the brain that switches between old and new habits. Furthermore, they appear to have been able to “turn off” ingrained habits using optogenetics.
The implications of this are profound. First, if we can identify where habits are stored in humans and similarly apply this treatment, can we reduce recidivism? If we choose to apply such treatments, are we heading for something akin to A Clockwork Orange, where we have people who are forced into good habits?
Secondly, if certain behaviors can be stopped, can others be induced? If so, this would seem to add credibility to the notion that people may be simply puppets of their own minds, and thus cannot be held accountable for crimes requiring a voluntary act.