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Can Conscious Experience Affect Brain Activity?

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The chief goal of Velmans' article (2002) is to find a way to solve the problem of how conscious experience could have bodily effects. I shall discuss his treatment of this below. First, I would like to deal with Velmans' treatment of my own studies of volition and free will in relation to brain processes. Unconscious Initiation and Conscious Veto of Freely Voluntary Acts Velmans appropriately refers to our experimental study (Libet et al., 1983) that found that onset of an electrically observable cerebral process (readiness potential, or RP) preceded the appearance of the subject's awareness of the conscious wish to act, by at least 350 msec. That indicated that the volitional process is initiated unconsciously. Velmans uses the term preconscious instead of unconscious. But, in fact, subjects have no reportable awareness or intuitive feeling that the brain has started a process before their conscious wish/urge to act appears. Unconscious initiation of the voluntary process appeared to mean that conscious free will could not actually 'tell' the brain to begin its preparation to carry out a voluntary act.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 809 Plum Lane, Davis, CA 95616-3219, USA

Publication date: 01 January 2003

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