Think about the decisions some people make each day, even if they don’t want to — smoking a cigarette in the morning; drinking one too many beers at night; getting high on heroin despite the risks. Now imagine scientists could discover how to change those habits with an injection and some light.
Kyle Smith, an assistant professor at Dartmouth College’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, is one of those scientists pursuing that goal. He studies decision-making with a technique called optogenetics, which uses light to turn neurons on and off. He hopes his research will lead to a better understanding of the way humans form habits — and how those habits lead to our decisions.