Benjamin Libet, a pioneer of research on free will at the University of California, San Francisco, developed almost thirty years ago: They had their patients look at a hand sweeping around a clock-face, asked them to press a button whenever they wanted to, and then had them indicate where the hand had been pointing when they decided to press the button. Continue reading
It was an expedition seeking something never caught before: a single human neuron lighting up to create an urge, albeit for the minor task of moving an index finger, before the subject was even aware of feeling anything…Probes in place, the patients—who were conscious—were given instructions to press a button at any time of their choosing, but also to report when they’d first felt the urge to do so.
…he found telltale flashes of individual neurons in the pre-supplementary motor area (associated with movement) and the anterior cingulate (associated with motivation and attention), preceding the reported urges by anywhere from hundreds of milliseconds to several seconds. It was a direct neural measurement of the unconscious brain at work—caught in the act of formulating a volitional, or freely willed, decision… Continue reading