People make decisions on the exhalation

Human free will is directly related to the process of breathing. This is the conclusion of neuroscientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of technology. Their work is published in the Nature Communications journal.

Scientists are studying how signals sent to the brain from internal organs affect a person's free will, that is, their ability to make decisions and perform voluntary actions. In particular, they are interested in the so-called readiness potential. It is a signal to start brain activity, which occurs not only before the action itself but also when a person does not yet realize what he is going to do, for example, take a pencil or press a button.

52 volunteers took part in the experiment. They were asked to spontaneously press a key on the keyboard and perform it, focusing only on their will. During this study, the researchers observed participants' brain electrical activity, as well as their breathing and heart rate.

It turned out that the readiness potential, namely, the launch of processes in the brain that lead to a person acting, is associated with the process of breathing, and not with the heartbeat. At the same time, most often the volunteers performed an act, that is, they pressed a key on the exhalation, rather than on the inhale.

According to the authors of the study, breathing is a mechanism that leads to conscious decision-making and voluntary actions. They suggest that their discovery can be used in the diagnosis of patients who find it difficult to control their actions. For example, such problems are observed in obsessive-compulsive disorder, Parkinson's disease, and Tourette's syndrome.

Feb. 10, 2020, 10:09 a.m.

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