The book “Who’s in Charge: Free Will and the Science of the Brain” is written by Dr. Michael Gazzaniga, a professor at UCSB. This post has some notes and quotes from the book.
• Research shows that practicing motor skills changes the efficacy of synapses and rewires synaptic connections.
• An analysis of brain part ratios from 363 species found that groups of species with more similar brain part ratios emerged based on similar lifestyles rather than on phylogenetic relationships.
• Von Economo neurons arose in the common ancestor of the great apes about 15 millions ago and are also found in elephants, dolphins, and some whales.
• Neuroimaging research found that a primed stimulus that never reached conscious awareness was able to activate the motor cortex.
• Stimulation of the medial frontal cortex creates the feeling of the urge to move.
• An experiment found that when transcranial magnetic stimulation is applied over the pre-supplemental motor area after the execution of a spontaneous action, the perceived onset of the intention to act is shifted backward in time.
• An experiment using fMRI showed that the outcomes of an inclination can be encoded in brain activity up to ten seconds before it enters awareness.
• Measurement of brain activity found that when areas of the brain showed predictive anticipatory responses during a conversation, the people conversing had greater understanding of one another.
• Brain scans show that both the observer and the recipient of pain have activity in the part of the brain that is active with the emotional perception of pain.
• The 30-millisecond exposure to happy, neutral, and angry faces show that people have measurable facial muscle reactions that correspond to the happy and angry faces.
• A brain imaging experiment showed that impersonal moral dilemmas are associated with increased activity in abstract reasoning areas of the brain, whereas personal moral dilemmas are associated with increased activity in areas of the brain related to emotion and social cognition.
• A study of patients who had lesions in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex had faster and more utilitarian responses to emotional moral dilemmas.
• An experiment showed that disrupting the function of the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex with transcranial electric stimulation led to people accepting lower offers in an economic game.
• Research found that people with injuries to an area of the prefrontal cortex since childhood exhibited more egocentric behavior.
• Diffusion tensor imaging shows that people vary in the number of fibers present in different parts of their callosum and in what routes they use to solve puzzles.
• Research shows that individual differences among people in dorsal fronto-median cortex activation correlate with the ability to inhibit actions and exercise self-control.
• Brain imaging research showed that activation patterns in the medial prefrontal cortex in response to viewing photos of social groups that elicited disgust were very similar to the patterns when the subjects were viewing inanimate objects.
• A fMRI study of assigning punishment showed that subjects with more activation in brain regions associated with emotion handed down greater punishments.
“We can begin to understand the illusion about free will when we ask the question, What on earth do humans want to be free from? Indeed, what does free will even mean? However actions are caused, we want them to be carried out with accuracy, consistency, and purpose.”
“Think about the problem of free will on a social level. While we believe we are always acting freely, we commonly want none of that in others. We expect the taxi driver to take us to our destination and not where he thinks we ought to go. We want our elected politicians to vote on future issues the way we have decided (probably erroneously) they think.”
“There is no ghost in the machine, no secret stuff that is YOU. That YOU that you are so proud of is a story woven together by your interpreter module to account for as much of your behavior as it can incorporate, and it denies or rationalizes the rest.”
“The fact remains, and you can show this experimentally, that actions are over, done, kaput, before your brain is conscious of them. Your left-hemisphere interpretive system is what pushes the advent of consciousness back in time to account for the cause of the action.”
“There is so much evidence that the brain functions automatically and that our conscious experience is an after-the-fact experience.”
“The brain is a decision-making device. It gathers information from all sorts of sources to make decisions from moment to moment. Information is gathered, computed, a decision is made, and then you get the sensation of conscious experience.”