Freedom of will, that is, the ability of a person to doA conscious choice, regardless of the circumstances, from the point of view of neuroscience may look quite predictable. In a new study, an article about which was published in the journal Scientific Reports, a group of Australian scientists from the University of New South Wales was able to prove that the brain makes a choice between two alternatives long before a person has time to realize this. Brief conclusions leads Quartz.
The study involved 14 volunteerseach of which was placed in the apparatus for MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Each person was tasked to look at two pictures: one with red horizontal lines, the other with green vertical. Then volunteers were asked to choose one of the pictures, limiting the time for making a decision to 20 seconds. After the choice was made, they had to press the corresponding button, and then within 10 seconds to try to mentally reproduce the image of the selected picture as accurately as possible. Then scientists asked each person what exactly he presented and how bright this image was. People had to answer also with the help of buttons.
All this time the brain activity of the participantsthe experiment was scanned by a tomograph. Observations have allowed scientists to track activity patterns in the brain of volunteers who are responsible for making a decision, and also to predict a decision that a person will make 11 seconds before pressing a button. This result suggests that the brain makes a choice before a person can realize it, the researchers note.
Lead author of the study, professor of cognitiveneurobiology Joel Pearson says that this work shows that the beginnings of thought are formed first in the subconscious, and only then acquire a conscious form.
"We believe that when a person is faced witha choice of two or more alternatives that need to be thought of, then the initial beginnings of thought are already in the subcortex of the subconscious and represent something like unconscious hallucinations, ”the researcher notes.
"As soon as our subconscious makes a choice aboutwhat you need to think further, the executive parts of the brain choose the version of thought, whose signal is stronger than the rest. In other words, if any subconscious activity finds a response in one of the proposed choices, then the brain is more likely to choose this option among the proposed alternatives, since its signal is already amplified by subconscious activity. ”
The results of this study contribute toI understand how negative thoughts appear in our brain, the researchers note. According to Pearson, his team’s research explains why some thoughts lead us to start thinking about something else, which leads to even more thoughts on the subject. The thing is that at this moment our "subconscious creates a loop of positive response to a particular thought." The study also infers the assumption that negative memories accompanied by visual images, such as in post-traumatic disorder, originate precisely in the form of unconscious thoughts.
This study is not the onlyshowing that our thoughts can be predicted long before their conscious manifestation. In previous studies carried out by other groups of neuroscientists, similar methods of observation showed that it is possible to predict choices aimed at physical actions 7-10 seconds before the brain makes a conscious decision and 4 seconds before making conscious abstract decisions. The goal of all these studies is to show how the brain is able to complicate the very concept of free will.
Neurobiologists have long known that the brain is in advancepreparing for mental activity even before you realize it. And the transition between when the thought becomes conscious and your perception takes only a few milliseconds. These milliseconds enable us to consciously reject the impulses arising in the subconscious, thereby creating the basis for the freedom of conscious choice.
You can discuss the article in our Telegram-chat.