"what we have shown is that the voluntary actions are actually influenced by the internal states of our body – tells Olaf Blanke , coordinator of the research – and in particular to the breathing and exhalation, while it does not seem to be linked to other types of body signals, such as heartbeat".
The research, and in particular the interpretation of its results, are based on a particular phenomenon known as the readiness potential, or potential for readiness of movement, and a special type of brain activity that registers just before the start of a voluntary action. To discover it, in 1965, was the neuroscienzato German Hans Helmut Kornhuber , but to connect the phenomenon to the agency were the research of another German scientist, Benjamin Libet , who showed in his experiments how it is possible to detect the potential readiness motor about 200 milliseconds before a person may undertake a voluntary action. A circumstance which has been interpreted as evidence of the illusory nature of free will: the brain you activate it before that in us is born of an awareness of wanting to undertake a given action, and therefore the consciousness and the freedom of choice would be nothing more than “epifenomeni”, that is, side-effects, or reflections, of the underlying unconscious activity of our neurons. The experiment: the button of choice, Not all experts, of course, agree with this interpretation. Olaf Blanke and his team, however, are certain: the decisions we think we make consciously are not the product of a cascade of signals exchanged between neurons, and the potential readiness motor is a good indicator with which to identify the start of a voluntary action. Starting from here, they designed their experiment: to 52 volunteers were asked to press a button when, and how, the more they want, while scientists monitoring their brain activity, the breathing and the heartbeat.
The results, published recently in Nature Communications, indicate a link between breathing, potential, readiness in motor and voluntary choices. The buttons have been pressed much more often when the participants were breathing out, and always at a potential readiness motor. An interesting discovery – say the researchers – because it relates to the choices that we are aware of other physiological phenomena that take place inside our organism. The role of the lungs "The potential readiness motor now no longer corresponds only to the activity of the cerebral cortex that prepares unconsciously' to voluntary action," explains Hyeong-Dong Park , one of the researchers who participated in the experiments. "At least in part must reflect the cortical processes linked to respiration, which play a role in the initiation of voluntary actions. More generally, it also suggests that the motor control of the upper level, as can be the voluntary actions, and is influenced or modified by involuntary actions and periodic reviews of our internal organs, particularly the lungs. Even if we have yet to map with precision the neural activity that controls breathing".
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