2009 IoN News Archive
- Grant for research into new epilepsy treatments
- Professor Martin Rossor has been recognised by the The Alzheimer's Association
- Drug discovery collaboration on inclusion body myositis
- PDS awards Training Fellowship to Institute of Neurology researcher to understand how the brain controls Parkinson’s symptoms
- Alan Thompson to lead UCL Partners Neurological Disorders theme
- World MS Day - Wednesday 27th May - Global initiative to highlight Multiple Sclerosis
- Queen Square leads on new UK recommendations for bladder management which can dramatically improve quality of life in Multiple Sclerosis
- John Hardy most-cited Alzheimer's disease researcher in the UK
- Prestigious awards for Institute researchers
- Drug study offers hope for Alzheimer’s treatment
- Brain activity predicts our choices
- Professor George du Boulay CBE, FRCR, FRCP
- Brain awareness week: the impact of UCL research
- Parkinson's-linked mutation makes neurons vulnerable to calcium-induced death
- Second round of NIHR Senior Investigators announced
- 'Mind-Reading' Experiment Highlights How Brain Records Memories
- Anti-malaria drug does not appear to help with human prion diseases.
- UCL Partners is one of UK’s first Academic Health Science Centres
- "Opening doors for patients with MS"
- Are we as decisive as we think?
- "Magnets stop the nightmare of tinnitus, researchers say."
- Prestigious award for Professor Hugh Bostock
- Untangling the Brain
- Young UCL Investigator Award in neuroimaging techniques
- Brain disease "resistance gene" could offer insights into CJD
- Neurology: A Queen Square Textbook
- Headache: annual evidence update
- Roads closed for powerful MRI scanner delivery
- Long-term risks lower for surgical treatment of carotid stenosis
- Memorandum of collaboration signed
- Professor John Hardy joins the ranks of science greats
- Drug study offers hope for Alzheimer's treatment
- Prestigious award for Professor David Miller
- Magnets stop the nightmare of tinnitus, researchers say.
- Brain activity predicts our choices
- Jon Driver Award
- Professor Sander named recipient of the American Epilepsy Society 2009 Clinical Science Award
- Study highlights effect of brain waves on human behaviour
- New podcast describes the significance and impact of highly cited paper
- NIH Grant for research into inherited neuropathies
- How the brain knows a dog is a dog: concept acquisition in the human brain
- Prof Elizabeth Fisher elected member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO)
- Locating literacy in the brain
- Dopamine enhances expectation of pleasure in humans
- Queen Square scientists question memory theory
- IoN scientist to front Alzheimer’s Research Trust national appeal
- New doors open to the understanding of the origin of brain tumours
Published: Jul 8, 2013 2:00:00 PM
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Published: Jun 5, 2013 2:24:00 PM
Are we as decisive as we think?
11 February 2009
Internal choices are weaker than those dictated by the outside world The underlying sense of being in control of our own actions is challenged by new research from UCL (University College London) which demonstrates that the choices we make internally are weak and easily overridden compared to when we are told which choice to make.
The research, which is published today in Cerebral Cortex, is one of the first neuroscientific studies to look at changing one's mind in situations where the initial decision was one's own 'free choice'. Free choices can be defined as actions occurring when external cues are largely absent – for example, deciding which dish to choose from a restaurant menu.
The researchers asked study participants to choose which of two buttons they would press in response to a subsequent signal, while their brain activity was recorded using EEG (electroencephalogram). Some choices were made freely by the volunteers and other choices were instructed by arrows on a screen in front of them. The volunteers' choices were occasionally interrupted by a symbol asking them to change their mind, after they had made their choice, but before they had actually pressed the button.
First author Stephen Fleming, UCL Institute of Neurology (Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience), said: "When people had chosen for themselves which action to make, we found that the brain activity involved in changing one's mind, or reprogramming these 'free' choices was weak, relative to reprogramming of choices that were dictated by an external stimulus. This suggests that the brain is very flexible when changing a free choice – rather like a spinning coin, a small nudge can push it one way or the other very easily.
"The implication is that, despite our feelings of being in control, our own internal choices are flexible compared to those driven by external stimuli, such as a braking in response to a traffic light. This flexibility might be important - in a dynamic world, we need to be able to change our plans when necessary."
Professor Patrick Haggard, UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, added: "Our study has two implications for our understanding of human volition. First, our brains contain a mechanism to go back and change our mind about our choices, after a choice is made but before the action itself. Our internal decisions are not set in stone, but can be re-evaluated right up to the last moment. Second, changing an internal choice in this way seems to be easier than changing a choice guided by external instructions.
Reference: Fleming, S. M., Mars, R. B., Gladwin, T. E.,
& Haggard, P. (2009). When
the Brain Changes Its Mind: Flexibility of Action Selection in Instructed and