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Rodents Might Have Free Will Like Humans

We have always known that only humans are entitled to it; however, according to a new study conducted on a rat’s brain, we have come to know that other mammals might also be enjoying the same. ...

We have always known that only humans are entitled to it; however, according to a new study conducted on a rat’s brain, we have come to know that other mammals might also be enjoying the same.

We are very unsure if this concept even exists among humans. Many philosophers have argued if free will is true or if all actions and choices have always been pre-determined. However, the answer to this can be found at the core of moral responsibility. We may say that people cannot be deemed responsible for their actions unless they have free will. In addition to philosophers, the subject is of high importance to religious scholars, cognitive scientists, psychologists, artificial intelligence scientists and law theorists as well.

So far, many studies have been conducted upon the existence and functioning of free will. According to a study by neurologist Benjamin Libet, a certain pattern of brain activity called “readiness potential” was found just before a repeated or spontaneous action was about to occur. In other words, it concluded that there was no such thing as free will and all the decisions of the brain are made by the unconscious or the subconscious mind rather than by the conscious mind.

This study, conducted on lab rats by Portuguese researchers reopens the whole subject for debate once again. The researchers have found that the readiness potential of the nervous system may actually not be the determining factor. Rather, the readiness potential that was determined by Libet might be the only contributor to the decision making that happens later. In this study, the rats were made to perform a task that tested their patience. They were made to wait in a place after hearing a sound, until a second sound was heard. If they showed patience, they were rewarded with a bigger water bowl. The brain activity of the rats was monitored using tiny electrodes that were planted in their premotor cortexes.

The researchers found a unique class of neurons, which had a random firing rate. These could predict the rate at which the integrators “counted up”. These neurons gave input in the neural integrators, which later triggered a spontaneous action when an input threshold was reached. According to later researchesArticle Search, if these integrators are equal to the readiness potential found by Libet; then there is a chance that these integrators represent a clear boundary between conscious neural processes (i.e. free will) and the unconscious neural processes in rats.

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