How the Brain Allows for Free Will

The classic neurological challenge to free will is that the brain is active before an individual realizes he or she is acting, but a new analysis gives free will a fresh leg to stand on.

What's the Latest Development?

A new analysis of the Libet experiment, the classic neurological study which supposedly disproved free will, is helping make human volition viable again. In Libet's original experiment, an EEG machine measured electrical activity that occurred in the brain before individuals were aware they had made a spontaneous movement. "Called the readiness potential, this has been interpreted as a blow to free will, as it suggests that the brain prepares to act well before we are conscious of the urge to move." A new understanding of spontaneous brain activity, however, is throwing doubt onto the study's original conclusion.

What's the Big Idea?

In 2009, a pair of researchers at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, designed an experiment to test the nature of spontaneous brain activity. What they found is that the brain assembles a series of neurons that, once they cross a threshold, constitute a decision to act. In the experiment, individuals who reacted most quickly to the experimenters' prompt to move also had the greatest neuron buildup. Aaron Schurger of the National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Saclay, France, said of the results: "...what looks like a pre-conscious decision process may not in fact reflect a decision at all. It only looks that way because of the nature of spontaneous brain activity."

Photo credit:

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Douglas Rushkoff – It’s not the technology’s fault

It's up to us humans to re-humanize our world. An economy that prioritizes growth and profits over humanity has led to digital platforms that "strip the topsoil" of human behavior, whole industries, and the planet, giving less and less back. And only we can save us.

Think Again Podcasts
  • It's an all-hands-on-deck moment in the arc of civilization.
  • Everyone has a choice: Do you want to try to earn enough money to insulate yourself from the world you're creating— or do you want to make the world a place you don't have to insulate yourself from?
Keep reading Show less

Can the keto diet help treat depression? Here’s what the science says so far

A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.

Photo: Public Domain
Mind & Brain
  • The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
  • Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
  • Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
Keep reading Show less

Why 'upgrading' humanity is a transhumanist myth

Upload your mind? Here's a reality check on the Singularity.

  • Though computer engineers claim to know what human consciousness is, many neuroscientists say that we're nowhere close to understanding what it is, or its source.
  • Scientists are currently trying to upload human minds to silicon chips, or re-create consciousness with algorithms, but this may be hubristic because we still know so little about what it means to be human.
  • Is transhumanism a journey forward or an escape from reality?
Keep reading Show less