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New study looks at brain networks involved in free will

by Oct. 4, 2018, 3:05 PM

Using lesion network mapping, a recently developed technique for analyzing how the brain works, Ryan Darby, MD, assistant professor of Neurology at Vanderbilt, studied free will perception related to movement decisions.

In the study, published online Oct. 1 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, he, along with researchers from Harvard Medical School, studied cases of akinetic mutism (patients who lack the motivation to move or speak) and alien limb syndrome (patients who feel that movement is generated by someone else).

Their study showed that although injuries disrupting volition — the desire to act — can occur in many different locations, they fall within the same brain network. Injuries disrupting agency — the feeling of responsibility for carrying out those actions — also can occur in many different locations, but they fall within a separate network.

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