Possible site of free will found in brain
Free will, or at least the place where we decide to act, is sited in a part of the brain called the parietal cortex, new research suggests.
When a neurosurgeon electrically jolted this region in patients undergoing surgery, they felt a desire to, say, wiggle their finger, roll their tongue or move a limb. Stronger electrical pulses convinced patients they had actually performed these movements, although their bodies remained motionless.
“What it tells us is there are specific brain regions that are involved in the consciousness of your movement,” says Angela Sirigu (pdf format), a neuroscientist at the CNRS Cognitive Neuroscience Centre in Bron, France, who led the study.
Sirigu’s team, including neurosurgeon Carmine Mottolese, performed the experiments on seven patients undergoing brain surgery to remove tumours.
In all but one case, the cancers were located far from the parietal cortex and other areas that Mottolese stimulated. One patient’s tumour sat near the parietal cortex, but did not interfere with the experiments, Sirigu says.
And because the patients were awake during the surgery, they could answer questions.