Monday, January 21, 2013

Free will and top down control in the brain

The following is the abstract of chapter 10 of Downward Causation and the Neurobiology of Free Will:

"I suggest that the physiological basis of free will, the spontaneous and intrinsic selection of one action rather than another, might be identified with mechanisms of top-down control. Top-down control is needed when, rather than responding to the most salient stimulus, we concentrate on the stimuli and actions relevant to the task we have chosen to perform. Top-down control is particularly relevant when we make our own decisions rather than following the instructions of an experimenter. Cognitive neuroscientists have studied top-down control extensively and have demonstrated an important role for dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex. If we consider the individual in isolation, then these regions are the likely location of will in the brain. However, individuals do not typically operate in isolation. The demonstration of will in even the simplest laboratory task depends upon an implicit agreement between the subject of the experiment and the experimenter. The top of top-down control in not to be found in the individual brain, but in the culture that is the human brain's unique environmental niche."

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