Original Research ARTICLE
Front. Hum. Neurosci., 26 February 2009 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/neuro.09.003.2009
Department of Psychology, Max-Planck-Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany
Department of Experimental Psychology and Ghent Institute for Functional and Metabolic Imaging, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception, UMR CNRS 8158, Université Paris Descartes, Paris, France
Recent brain imaging research revealed that internally guided actions involve the frontomedian wall, in particular the preSMA and the rostral cingulate zone (RCZ). However, a systematic decomposition of different components of intentional action is still lacking. We propose a new paradigm to dissociate two components of internally guided behavior: Which action to perform (selection component) and when to perform the action (timing component). Our results suggest a neuro-functional dissociation of intentional action timing and intentional action selection. While the RCZ is more strongly activated for the selection component, a part of the superior medial frontal gyrus is more strongly activated for the timing component. However, in a post hoc conducted signal strength analysis we did also observe an interaction between action timing and action selection, indicating that decisional processes concerning action timing and action selection are not completely dissociated but interdependent. Altogether this study challenges the idea of a unitary system supporting voluntary action and instead suggests the existence of different neuroanatomically dissociable subfunctions.