top of page

Breathing may change your mind about free will

Olaf Blanke, Hyeongdong Park, Hyukjun Moon & Hillary Sanctuary (article author) | 2:34


 So we studied, uh, the brain process of free will. So what's free will take an example from dinner whether you want water, beer, or wine, or what, whether you want chocolate for dessert. Uh, compare this with involuntary actions like, uh, trembling or, um, other movements, uh, withdrawing the hand from a hot plate.

What we found surprisingly is that free will or voluntary action is dependent on a very cy. Inner activity related to breathing. The ongoing activity of breathing strongly modulates and predicts when the subject is going to press the button. So we used really simple experimenters set up so the participants can press the button whenever they want.

So 53 participants performed the task and we measure. They are heartbeat using electrocardiogram and their breathing using the respiration belt and their brain activity using the easy cap on the head. We found that people begin their voluntary action or conscious mental decision while breathing out.

In particular at the end of a breathing cycle. So it's like breathe in, breathe on, and they perform voluntary action. We wanted to combine our interest in interception on self-consciousness, so the self, who you are, what decisions you make with another essential component of self-consciousness, which is voluntary action of free will.

As a basic research lab, the first application for us is really to understand the cognitive science, the psychology, and the brain mechanisms involved. Why and how breathing is coupled with action. Only certain actions. All actions and, and what's in particular? This, this, this synchronization. What drives it?

There are several medical applications of these findings, I believe. So one could. Be that in obsessive compulsive disorders or Tourette syndrome. So disorders of voluntary movement control. We would understand the underlying science better, neuroscience better, and also maybe can move towards diagnostic procedures as brain computer interfaces, linking brain activity of, of movement impaired individuals with robotic or computer devices.

Download Transcript

bottom of page