Is free thinking real or illusion? Origins of free will in the brain

on 17 October 2018
The future starts in the mind

I like to think of consciousness as our ability to negotiate and appreciate the world from within and the world from without, it is the sense of a lack of purpose from the within that causes us to be over-reliant on the without . . .

Hypnotherapy, the journey of self-discovery!

From the moment we are born our future is being shaped, be it by parents, teachers, societal and cultural norms and later on, our peers. In the midst of all this, we rarely get to discover our true selves. The things that shape the way we respond to life are a mix of genetics and experience. Our brain begins to take charge of the way we react to others and situations (our emotional life). And our ability to learn, assimilate knowledge, and develop motor skills is more or less on board at birth. All that is lacking is an opportunity, exposure and training/education. In that sense, no one can outperform their natural ability. Put 10 people through the same driving school, using the same car and instructor and you likely get 10 different levels of driving capability. One will be better than the other nine; that's ability. Training and experience can improve on that. Maybe they could all be trained to the same level of qualification, as in, reach a determined level of competence according to standards, ability determines the level of ease or difficulty they each experience 

Imagine you were born to the same parents but in a different country, would you be a different person? No, you’d still have the same innate potential but you would likely experience life differently because of the above-mentioned parameters. So, if our life is determined by experience (the genetics being fixed) and that creates mindset, then how can we change? It all starts with an understanding of how the brain works and how thinking develops from the way our brain is wired from there we can learn to use our mind (instead of it using us).

one thing that I have found that is immensely influential in preventing us from developing new states of mind, is the way we use language. Most often I find clients language steeped in negativity, vagueness and/or ambiguity (NVA) the brain/mind needs clarity but we give it NVA. It is within this linguistic state of NVA, that we find the greatest challenges that prevent us from achieving all that we want  and when we can state what that is, clearly, that we begin the journey towards our greatest achievement; the discovery of “the self!”

the essence of free will surely is the culmination of having what you want, that moment when one realises the reality meets the expectation!

Hypnotherapy stands out as one of the most effective strategic life management methods there is, especially in its ability to promote good states of mental wellness. The behaviours that make life challenging are often a result of dysregulation of the neurotransmission in and across the brain (tantamount to mind). So it makes perfect sense to use a methodology that addresses the subconscious mind's role in perpetuating negative, vague and ambiguous language patterns, one that helps us create calm relaxing states that make life work better! If you would like to address any concerns you have in this direction, or, if you just want to make your life feel better,  then why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation? Hypnosis gives you the ability to have a good life!

The objective here is to help people understand how and why we become illogically trapped into irrational emotional experiences that may actually be happening for reasons different to that which we would imagine! If you want to know more about how Hypnotherapy can help you; why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation?

For more information on the Free Consultation - Go Here Or, to book your Free Consultation today, you can do so here

The Research: 

Long the domain of philosophy and religion, free will has also been defined by scientists as a combination of two cognitive processes -- the desire to act (or volition) and the sense of responsibility for our actions (or agency.) Together, these processes create the perception of free will, and damage to volition or agency can leave patients without the desire to move or speak or the sensation that their movements are not their own, respectively.

Neuroscientists led by Michael Fox, MD, PhD, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) used brain lesion network mapping -- a technique pioneered by Fox at BIDMC -- to find the anatomical origins of the perception of free will. Their findings were published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Lesion network mapping is a recently validated technique that allows scientists to map symptoms caused by brain injury to specific brain networks," said Fox, Director of the Laboratory for Brain Network Imaging and Modulation at BIDMC and an Associate Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School. "In this study, we used this network localization approach to determine the neuroanatomical basis for disordered free will perception."

Fox and colleagues, including lead author, R. Ryan Darby, MD, PhD, formerly a fellow in Fox's lab at BIDMC and now of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, identified 28 cases in the medical literature in which brain injury disrupted volition, leaving patients with akinetic mutism -- a lack of motivation to move or speak. They also identified 50 cases in which brain injury disrupted agency and caused patients to feel their movements were not their own, a syndrome known as alien limb syndrome.

Network mapping revealed that, while the brain injuries were quite diverse in their locations, the lesions fell within one of two distinct brain networks. All of the injuries disrupting volition were functionally connected to the anterior cingulate cortex, a region of the brain associated with motivation and planning. Ninety per cent of lesions causing alien limb fell within a brain network functionally connected to the precuneus cortex, part of the brain associated with an agency.

Finally, the authors showed that their findings were relevant beyond patients with brain injury. Brain stimulation to these same sites altered free will perception in healthy research participants, and neuroimaging of psychiatric patients with altered free will perception revealed abnormalities fell with these same brain networks.

"Our study was focused on patients with disorders of free will for movements; however, free will is commonly discussed as it relates to social, legal and moral responsibility for decisions, not just movement," said Fox. "It remains unknown whether the network of brain regions we identify as related to free will for movements is the same as those important for moral decision-making."

Story Source:

Materials provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical CenterNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. R. Ryan Darby, Juho Joutsa, Matthew J. Burke, Michael D. Fox. Lesion network localization of free willProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018; 201814117 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1814117115

Cite This Page:
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. "Free thinking: Origins of free will in the brain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 October 2018. <>.