1 Department of Communication and Psychology, The Faculty of Humanities, Aalborg University, VBN2 The Faculty of Humanities, Aalborg University, VBN3 Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience, The Faculty of Humanities, Aalborg University, VBN4 Institut for Klinisk Medicin - Center for Funktionelt Integrativ Neurovidenskab
The role of conscious intention in relation to motoric movements has become a major topic of investigation in neuroscience. Traditionally, reports of conscious intention have been compared to various features of the readiness-potential (RP) – an electrophysiological signal that appears before voluntary movements. Experiments, however, tend to study intentions in immediate relation to movements (proximal intentions), thus ignoring other aspects of intentions such as planning or deciding in advance of movement (distal intentions). The current study examines the difference in electrophysiological activity between proximal intention and distal intention, using electroencephalography (EEG). Participants had to form an intention to move and then wait 2.5 sec before performing the actual movement. In this way, the electrophysiological activity related to forming a conscious intention was separated from any confounding activity related to automated motor activity. This was compared to conditions in which participants had to act as soon as they had the intention and a condition where participants acted upon an external cue 2.5 sec prior to movement. We examined the RP for the three conditions. No difference was found in early RP, but late RP differed significantly depending on the type of intention. In addition, we analysed signals during a longer time-interval starting before the time of distal intention formation until after the actual movement concluded. Results showed a slow negative electrophysiological “intention potential” above the mid-frontal areas at the time participants formed a distal intention. This potential was only found when the distal intention was self-paced and not when the intention was formed in response to an external cue.