Willed action, free will, and the stochastic neurodynamics of decision-making.
It is shown that the randomness of the firing times of neurons in decision-making attractor neuronal networks that is present before the decision cues are applied can cause statistical fluctuations that influence the decision that will be taken. In this rigorous sense, it is possible to partially predict decisions before they are made. This raises issues about free will and determinism. There are many decision-making networks in the brain. Some decision systems operate to choose between gene-specified rewards such as taste, touch, and beauty (in for example the peacock's tail). Other processes capable of planning ahead with multiple steps held in working memory may require correction by higher order thoughts that may involve explicit, conscious, processing. The explicit system can allow the gene-specified rewards not to be selected or deferred. The decisions between the selfish gene-specified rewards, and the explicitly calculated rewards that are in the interests of the individual, the phenotype, may themselves be influenced by noise in the brain. When the explicit planning system does take the decision, it can report on its decision-making, and can provide a causal account rather than a confabulation about the decision process. We might use the terms "willed action" and "free will" to refer to the operation of the planning system that can think ahead over several steps held in working memory with which it can take explicit decisions. Reduced connectivity in some of the default mode cortical regions including the precuneus that are active during self-initiated action appears to be related to the reduction in the sense of self and agency, of causing willed actions, that can be present in schizophrenia.