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    Voluntary control of a phantom limb

    Walsh, Eamonn and Long, C. and Haggard, P. (2015) Voluntary control of a phantom limb. Neuropsychologia 75 , pp. 341-348. ISSN 0028-3932.

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    Voluntary actions are often accompanied by a conscious experience of intention. The content of this experience, and its neural basis, remain controversial. On one view, the mind just retrospectively ascribes intentions to explain the occurrence of actions that lack obvious triggering stimuli. Here, we use EEG frequency analysis of sensorimotor rhythms to investigate brain activity when a participant (CL, co-author of this paper) with congenital absence of the left hand and arm, prepared and made a voluntary action with the right or the phantom ‘left hand’. CL reported the moment she experienced the intention to press a key. This timepoint was then used as a marker for aligning and averaging EEG. In a second condition, CL was asked to prepare the action on all trials, but then, on some trials, to cancel the action at the last moment. For the right hand, we observed a typical reduction in beta-band spectral power prior to movement, followed by beta rebound after movement. When CL prepared but then cancelled a movement, we found a characteristic EEG pattern reported previously, namely a left frontal increase in spectral power close to the time of the perceived intention to move. Interestingly, the same neural signatures of positive and inhibitory volition were also present when CL prepared and inhibited movements with her phantom left hand. These EEG signals were all similar to those reported previously in a group of 14 healthy volunteers. Our results suggest that conscious intention may depend on preparatory brain activity, and not on making, or ever having made, the corresponding physical body movement. Accounts that reduce conscious volition to mere retrospective confabulation cannot easily explain our participant’s neurophenomenology of action and inhibition. In contrast, the results are consistent with the view that specific neural events prior to movement may generate conscious experiences of positive and negative volition.


    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Science > School of Psychological Sciences
    Depositing User: Administrator
    Date Deposited: 25 Jun 2015 11:13
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 17:17


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