Brain imaging spots our abstract choices before we do: Kreiman discovered that electrical activity in the supplementary motor area, involved in initiating movement, and in the anterior cingulate cortex, which controls attention and motivation, appeared up to 5 seconds before a volunteer was aware of deciding to press the button (Neuron, doi.org/btkcpz). This backed up earlier fMRI studies by John-Dylan Haynes of the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience in Berlin, Germany, that had traced the origins of decisions to the prefrontal cortex a whopping 10 seconds before awareness...
If this kind of "mind-reading" is possible, a new study by Haynes, published this week and also presented at the meeting, suggests that it may not be restricted to decisions about moving a finger. Using fMRI, Haynes has found that the very brain areas involved in deciding to move are also active several seconds before a more abstract decision, like whether to add or subtract a series of numbers.
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