The readiness potential reflects intentional binding

Front Hum Neurosci. 2014 Jun 10;8:421. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00421. eCollection 2014.


When a voluntary action is causally linked with a sensory outcome, the action and its consequent effect are perceived as being closer together in time. This effect is called intentional binding. Although many experiments were conducted on this phenomenon, the underlying neural mechanisms are not well understood. While intentional binding is specific to voluntary action, we presumed that preconscious brain activity (the readiness potential, RP), which occurs before an action is made, might play an important role in this binding effect. In this study, the brain dynamics were recorded with electroencephalography (EEG) and analyzed in single-trials in order to estimate whether intentional binding is correlated with the early neural processes. Moreover, we were interested in different behavioral performance between meditators and non-meditators since meditators are expected to be able to keep attention more consistently on a task. Thus, we performed the intentional binding paradigm with 20 mindfulness meditators and compared them to matched controls. Although, we did not observe a group effect on either behavioral data or EEG recordings, we found that self-initiated movements following ongoing negative deflections of slow cortical potentials (SCPs) result in a stronger binding effect compared to positive potentials, especially regarding the perceived time of the consequent effect. Our results provide the first direct evidence that the early neural activity within the range of SCPs affects perceived time of a sensory outcome that is caused by intentional action.

Keywords: intentional binding; meditation; readiness potential; sense of agency; slow cortical potential.