Willed action and the prefrontal cortex in man: a study with PET

Proc Biol Sci. 1991 Jun 22;244(1311):241-6. doi: 10.1098/rspb.1991.0077.


We used positron emission tomography to contrast changes in cerebral blood flow associated with willed and routine acts. In the six tasks used, volunteers had to make a series of responses to a sequence of stimuli. For the routine acts, each response was completely specified by the stimulus. For the willed acts, the response was open-ended and therefore volunteers had to make a deliberate choice. Willed acts in the two response modalities studied (speaking a word, or lifting a finger) were associated with increased blood flow in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (Brodmann area 46). Willed acts were also associated with decreases in blood flow, but the location of these decreases was modality dependent.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Cerebral Cortex / blood supply
  • Cerebral Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Fingers / innervation
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Processes*
  • Organ Specificity
  • Speech
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed / methods
  • Touch