Does Free Will Really Exist or Is It Just an Illusion?

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free will illusionExperts from Harvard claim to have ‘crystallized’ the exact moment when the brain decides to perform an action or desire. This moment is not the same as the one when we think we have taken the decision. So does it mean that someone else ultimately take the decisions before we do?

In fact, the decisions are taken by the parts of the brain which “host” the subconscious, which has already made up its mind and announced it to the consciousness, located in another brain area. That is we learn later what our brain has decided for us.

Speaking at the Festival of the British Neuroscience Association, professor of ophthalmology and neurology specialist Gabriel Kreiman explains that “the problem of free will has been discussed for millennia. Philosophers and scientists conclude that the intention was and is always free. However, they did not ask neuroscientists…”

In the study, the experts asked epileptic patients, who had electrodes placed in their brains, to press the button of the computer mouse with the right index finger and tell them the exact moment when they took the decision to perform this task.

“What we saw as the result of this experiment is that there is a gradual and progressive increase in brain activity when a person actually takes a decision. However, this occurs before any activity of the consciousness manifests itself. So the brain takes decisions before the person himself realizes it. Thus, with the evolution of neurosurgery we will be able to learn a decision a few milliseconds before it is taken,” explains Dr. Kreiman.

So is this really our choice or just an illusion of free will? If we are absent from our own decisions, since we can not control our subconscious, perhaps this is the end of the discussion about free will? “Maybe not yet,” say the experts.

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Anna LeMind

Anna is the founder and lead editor of the website She is passionate about learning new things and reflecting on thought-provoking ideas. She writes about science, psychology and other related topics. She is particularly interested in topics regarding introversion, consciousness and subconscious, perception, human mind's potential, as well as the nature of reality and the universe.

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By | 2017-01-13T21:54:08+00:00 May 4th, 2013|Categories: Food for thought, Human Brain, Uncommon Science|Tags: , , |2 Comments


  1. Imhotep32 May 17, 2013 at 11:39 pm - Reply

    I suspect determinism is reality.

  2. K. S. February 9, 2017 at 4:15 am - Reply

    “I think, therefore I am,” no? I think I own my free will because my brain is mine. Its totally a basketcase collection that, among many, many other odds and ends (heavy on the odds, haha) includes cracked trophies, dog-eared pages, voodoo dolsl, an endless parade of “what if”s and “why”s and absolutely ridiculous “old wives tales.” The world I’ve created and continue to edit is a product of my parents, my upbringing and where I was up-brought 😉 and my soul (which I see as including the heart & mind – all the good stuff, just the body is disposable, haha). I’ve recently ripped open a treasure trove of knowledge within me that I know has been here all along, but must’ve scared me or something because I was always running from it. I have a strong suspicion that my subconscious knows, but she’s not talking. Yet.

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Does Free Will Really Exist or Is It Just an Illusion?