MAY 06, 2015 1:01 PM PDT

The Neuroanatomy Behind a Decision to Move One's Body

WRITTEN BY: Will Hector
When influencing prosthetic limb movement, finding the appropriate brain signal to determine when a decision is finalized can be the difference between premature or inopportune movement and a fluid, confident movement.

New research from Stanford engineers offers a glimpse into what happens neurologically the moment a subject switches from a decision to perform one task to a decision to perform a different task. The information contributes to an important body of knowledge regarding consciousness, free will, and motoric agency.

Krishna Shenoy's Stanford lab was behind a recent study published in eLife that decoded a monkey's motor cortex as it was involved in decision making and limb movement. The discovery will help neural prosthetic makers make devices that will withhold movement until a user is certain of their decision.

The research was the result of lead author Matthew Kaufman and his team developing a method of tracking the brain signals that occur in lab monkeys during a single decision with second-by-second accuracy.

The monkeys were trained to reach for either of two targets displayed on a screen. Sometimes, one target was blocked, which prompted a forced choice, but other times either target was reachable. Still other times, researchers switched from the forced choice situation to the free choice situation to induce a change of mind in the monkey. This part of the experiment-where the monkey had a free choice or were prompted to change their mind-gleaned the results of interest to the researchers.

The motor and premotor cortex of each monkey was wired to measure brain activity from the time that the targets appeared on screen. The measurements continued until the monkey began to act on his decision.

The results prompted to Kaufman to say: "We are seeing many cognitive phenomena in the brain for the first time. The most critical result of our work here is that we can track a single decision and see how the monkey arrived there: whether he decided quickly, slowly, or changed his mind halfway through."

Reflecting on the use of a single-trial decoder algorithm that enabled him to analyze the moment-by-moment brain activity of the monkeys, Kaufman said: "We can now track single decisions with unprecedented precision. We saw that the brain activity for a typical free choice looked just like it did for a forced choice. But a few of the free choices were different. Occasionally, (a monkey) was indecisive for a moment before he made any plan at all. About one time in eight, he made a plan quickly but spontaneously changed his mind a moment later."

This in-depth look at the process of decision-making will help researchers fine-tune neural prostheses to enable people to drive a brain-controlled prosthetic arm or guide a neural-activated cursor on a computer screen.

The above story is based on materials provided by Stanford School of Engineering. The original article was written by Janet Rae-Dupree and Tom Abate and can be located through the following citation: Matthew T Kaufman, Mark M Churchland, Stephen I Ryu, Krishna V Shenoy. Vacillation, indecision and hesitation in moment-by-moment decoding of monkey motor cortex. eLife, 2015; 4 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.04677#sthash.lpxsmvaO.dpuf

Follow Will Hector on Twitter: @WriterWithHeart

(Source: Science Daily)
About the Author
Will Hector practices psychotherapy at Heart in Balance Counseling Center in Oakland, California. He has substantial training in Attachment Theory, Hakomi Body-Centered Psychotherapy, Psycho-Physical Therapy, and Formative Psychology. To learn more about his practice, click here: http://www.heartinbalancetherapy.com/will-hector.html
You May Also Like
JUL 31, 2022
Cannabis Sciences
Researchers draw connection between high-potency cannabis, mental health and addiction issues
JUL 31, 2022
Researchers draw connection between high-potency cannabis, mental health and addiction issues
In a recent study published in Lancet Psychiatry, a team of researchers from the Addiction and Mental Health Group at th ...
AUG 10, 2022
Neuroscience
Memory Flash Learning Method Improves Visual Perception of People with Autism
AUG 10, 2022
Memory Flash Learning Method Improves Visual Perception of People with Autism
Tel Aviv University researchers developed a new learning method for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that can ...
AUG 11, 2022
Neuroscience
A Pathway That Links a Gut Microbe & Alzheimer's Disease
AUG 11, 2022
A Pathway That Links a Gut Microbe & Alzheimer's Disease
The gut microbiome is closely connected to human health and well being in many ways. While many microbes in the gut perf ...
AUG 24, 2022
Health & Medicine
Vitamin D Supplements Could Alleviate Symptoms of Depression, Meta-Analysis Finds
AUG 24, 2022
Vitamin D Supplements Could Alleviate Symptoms of Depression, Meta-Analysis Finds
An extensive meta-analysis which was recently published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition presents evide ...
AUG 19, 2022
Neuroscience
Anterior Cingulate Cortex Plays a Key Role in Managing Additional Learning Tasks
AUG 19, 2022
Anterior Cingulate Cortex Plays a Key Role in Managing Additional Learning Tasks
A study published in Nature Communications reports that a key function of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is to help ...
SEP 27, 2022
Clinical & Molecular DX
New Research Elucidates the Mechanism of Skin Cancer Metastasis to the Brain and Points to Groundbreaking Treatment
SEP 27, 2022
New Research Elucidates the Mechanism of Skin Cancer Metastasis to the Brain and Points to Groundbreaking Treatment
In advanced stages of skin cancer, patients develop brain metastases about 90% of the time. Though this is one of the mo ...
Loading Comments...