Editor's note: Kathryn Ambroze is a behavioral research scientist at HCD Research, Flemington, N.J.
A simple morning routine – get out of bed, get dressed, make some coffee – is a daily experience that becomes so repetitive that it doesn’t even require direct deliberation. These experiences grow into a repeated behavior that inevitably feels automatic. These habits are embedded in our daily lives, impacted by our environments and enhanced by repetition. Exploration of this continuous loop of cues, routines and rewards can be implemented in various fields, including pharmaceuticals.
Each brain is a map of an individual’s experiences that, through neuroplasticity, is adapting throughout one’s life. These constant adaptations in the brain are creating neural networks, or pathways, which quickly communicate and respond to environmental cues (Berkman, 2018). The habit loops of cues, routines and rewards are then either strengthened or weakened based on how frequently the same pathways need to occur. Doing so allows the brain to conserve energy for common actions. Consider a new driver’s experience the first time behind the wheel of a car. The amount of awareness required to understand the space of the vehicle and how it moves on the road can be overwhelming. Yet over time, driving becomes nearly automatic to the point where the driver no longer has to consciously focus on the task due to the frequency of driving overall. With a routine experience, the neural networks create stronger connections that require less energy to fire messages.
In the same way, physicians who see patients with the same profile have created heuristics, mental shortcuts, to their prescribing plan. Heuristics allow individuals to simplify complex ideas by breaking them down into smaller, more digestible topics (Kahneman, 2011). A target question could ask how a prescription drug will improve the general population’s health per dol...