Brain preparation before a voluntary action: Evidence against unconscious movement initiation

Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago, New Zealand; Department of Psychology, University of Otago, New Zealand
Consciousness and Cognition (Impact Factor: 2.31). 01/2010; DOI: 10.1016/j.concog.2009.08.006

ABSTRACT Benjamin Libet has argued that electrophysiological signs of cortical movement preparation are present before people report having made a conscious decision to move, and that these signs constitute evidence that voluntary movements are initiated unconsciously. This controversial conclusion depends critically on the assumption that the electrophysiological signs recorded by Libet, Gleason, Wright, and Pearl (1983) are associated only with preparation for movement. We tested that assumption by comparing the electrophysiological signs before a decision to move with signs present before a decision not to move. There was no evidence of stronger electrophysiological signs before a decision to move than before a decision not to move, so these signs clearly are not specific to movement preparation. We conclude that Libet’s results do not provide evidence that voluntary movements are initiated unconsciously.

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