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The timing of intentions 

The timing of intentions
The timing of intentions
The Actor's Brain: Exploring the cognitive neuroscience of free will

Sean A Spence


In this chapter, we have examined some very detailed and elegantly designed experiments, which have required great attention to fine distinctions. We have examined ‘intentions’ and the subjective awareness of ‘movement’. Latterly, we have touched upon ‘vetoes’, cancelled intentions. All these studies serve to enhance our understanding of what it is that happens while ‘freely chosen’ intentions and ‘internally initiated’ acts are generated (or not generated, cancelled) in the healthy human brain. We have clarified the timing of some of those components that constitute the cerebral motor response and we have identified patterns of association pertaining between subjective phenomena (i.e. our experiences of intention and movement, volition) and the cognitive, neurobiological processes that underpin action. We have demonstrated the pivotal contribution of the medial premotor systems to action generation and medial prefrontal systems to action suppression (the ‘cancelling’ of intentions, self-control).

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