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Does 'free will' stem from brain noise?
Date:6/9/2014

efore a volunteer made a decision to press a switch in response to a visual signal. He found brain activity immediately before the volunteer reported deciding to press the switch.

The new results build on Libet's finding, because they provide a model for how brain activity could precede decision, Bengson said. Additionally, Libet had to rely on when volunteers said they made their decision. In the new experiment, the random timing means that "we know people aren't making the decision in advance," Bengson said.

Libet's experiment raised questions of free will if our brain is preparing to act before we know we are going to act, how do we make a conscious decision to act? The new work, though, shows how "brain noise" might actually create the opening for free will, Bengson said.

"It inserts a random effect that allows us to be freed from simple cause and effect," he said.

The work, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, was published online in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.

Bengson is also currently a visiting assistant professor at Bates College, Maine. Co-authors on the paper are Todd Kelley, postdoctoral researcher, Center for Mind and Brain; Professor Jane-Ling Wang and graduate student Xiaoke Zhang, Department of Statistics; and Professor George (Ron) Mangun, Center for Mind and Brain and dean of the Division of Social Sciences at UC Davis.


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Contact: Andy Fell
ahfell@ucdavis.edu
530-752-4533
University of California - Davis
Source:Eurekalert

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