Brief Communication

Unconscious determinants of free decisions in the human brain

  • Nature Neuroscience volume 11, pages 543545 (2008)
  • doi:10.1038/nn.2112
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Abstract

There has been a long controversy as to whether subjectively 'free' decisions are determined by brain activity ahead of time. We found that the outcome of a decision can be encoded in brain activity of prefrontal and parietal cortex up to 10 s before it enters awareness. This delay presumably reflects the operation of a network of high-level control areas that begin to prepare an upcoming decision long before it enters awareness.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank D. Passingham and H. Lau for valuable comments and T. Mildner and S. Zysset for help with scanning. This work was funded by the Max Planck Society and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Stephanstrasse 1A, 04103 Leipzig, Germany.

    • Chun Siong Soon
    • , Marcel Brass
    •  & John-Dylan Haynes
  2. Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience, Haus 6, Philippstrasse 13, 10115 Berlin, Germany.

    • Chun Siong Soon
    •  & John-Dylan Haynes
  3. Department of Experimental Psychology and Ghent Institute for Functional and Metabolic Imaging, Ghent University, Henri Dunantlaan 2, 9000 Ghent, Belgium.

    • Marcel Brass
  4. Department of Neurology II, Otto-von-Guericke University, Leipziger Strasse 44, 39120 Magdeburg, Germany.

    • Hans-Jochen Heinze

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Contributions

J.-D.H., C.S.S., M.B. and H.-J.H. conceived the experiment. C.S.S. and J.-D.H. carried out the experiment. C.S.S. analyzed the data. J.-D.H. and C.S.S. wrote the paper.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to John-Dylan Haynes.

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Text and Figures

    Supplementary Figures 1–9, Table 1, Methods and Discussion