This article is part of the Research Topic Neurodynamics of will


Front. Integr. Neurosci., 27 June 2012 |

Intentionality and “free-will” from a neurodevelopmental perspective

Gerry Leisman1,2,3,4*, Calixto Machado4, Robert Melillo1,2,3 and Raed Mualem1,3
  • 1National Institute for Brain and Rehabilitation Sciences, Nazareth, Israel
  • 2F. R. Carrick Institute for Clinical Ergonomics, Rehabilitation, and Applied Neuroscience, Garden City, NY, USA
  • 3Nazareth Academic Institute, Nazareth, Israel
  • 4Department of Clinical Neurophysiology, Instituto de Neurología y Neurocirugía, La Habana, Cuba

The nature of free-will as a subset of intentionality and probabilistic and deterministic function is explored with the indications being that human behavior is highly predictable which in turn, should compromise the notion of free-will. Data supports the notion that age relates to the ability to progressively effectively establish goals performed by fixed action patterns and that these FAPs produce outcomes that in turn modify choices (free-will) for which FAPs need to be employed. Early goals require behaviors that require greater automation in terms of FAPs that lead to goals being achieved or not; if not, then one can change behavior and that in turn is free-will. Goals change with age based on experience which is similar to the way in which movement functions. We hypothesize that human prefrontal cortex development was a natural expansion of the evolutionarily earlier developed areas of the frontal lobe and that goal-directed movements and behavior, including choice and free-will, provided for an expansion of those areas. The same regions of the human central nervous system that were already employed for better control, coordination, and timing of movements, expanded in parallel with the frontal cortex. The initial focus of the frontal lobes was the control of motor activity, but as the movements became more goal-directed, greater cognitive control over movement was necessitated leading to voluntary control of FAPs or free-will. The paper reviews the neurobiology, neurohistology, and electrophysiology of brain connectivities developmentally, along with the development of those brain functions linked to decision-making from a developmental viewpoint. The paper reviews the neurological development of the frontal lobes and inter-regional brain connectivities in the context of optimization of communication systems within the brain and nervous system and its relation to free-will.

Keywords: free-will, functional connection, fixed-action patterns, self-regulation, frontal-lobe, goal direction, electrophysiology

Citation: Leisman G, Machado C, Melillo R and Mualem R (2012) Intentionality and “free-will” from a neurodevelopmental perspective. Front. Integr. Neurosci. 6:36. doi: 10.3389/fnint.2012.00036

Received: 15 March 2012; Accepted: 31 May 2012;
Published online: 27 June 2012.

Edited by:

Jose L. Perez Velazquez, Hospital for Sick Children and University of Toronto, Canada

Reviewed by:

Antonio Pereira, Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil
Russell Schachar, The Hospital for Sick Children, Canada

Copyright: © 2012 Leisman, Machado, Melillo and Mualem. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial License, which permits non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited.

*Correspondence: Gerry Leisman, National Institute for Brain and Rehabilitation, PO Box 50228, Schneler 906/4, Nazareth 16100, Israel. e-mail: