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Scientists Spot Brain's 'Free Will' Center
Date:8/23/2007

chers from University College London, in the United Kingdom, the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany, and Ghent University, Belgium.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the researchers studied the brain activity of participants in two situations -- when they acted out as they had planned, or when they decided not to follow their original intention.

Fifteen right-handed individuals (seven males and eight females, average age 26) participated in a "go-no-go" exercise. They were asked to press a button on a keyboard but first to indicate what time they were going to perform this action. They were also asked to choose instances in which they stopped before actually pressing the button.

When participants decided not to press the button, a specific area of the frontal lobe region of the brain lit up. When participants followed through, however, the area did not light up.

The executive-function frontal lobes, which have previously been identified with inhibition, are part of what makes humans human, neurologists say.

"These areas are the most expanded in humans as compared to animals," explained Dr. Kimford Meador, spokesman for the American Academy of Neurology and professor of neurology at the University of Florida, Gainesville. "The frontal lobe is important for initiation, for planning, personality, creativity."

"The frontal lobes distinguish us from lower-order creatures," added David Masur, director of neuropsychology in the department of neurology at Montefiore Medical Center and clinical professor of neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, both in New York City. "We have larger frontal lobes, and these are what really are responsible for much of what we define as human behavior, social interaction, ability to plan, organize, some language ability, abstract reasoning or thinking."

For now, the implications of the research are esoteric but, down the line
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