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Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Hum. Neurosci., 26 February 2009 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/neuro.09.003.2009

Dissociating what and when of intentional actions

1
Department of Psychology, Max-Planck-Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany
2
Department of Experimental Psychology and Ghent Institute for Functional and Metabolic Imaging, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
3
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.
Keywords:
fMRI, intentional action, action timing, action selection, frontal medial wall
Citation:
Krieghoff V, Brass M, Prinz W and Waszak F (2009). Dissociating what and when of intentional actions. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 3:3. doi: 10.3389/neuro.09.003.2009
Received:
24 November 2008;
 Paper pending published:
01 January 2009;
Accepted:
14 February 2009;
 Published online:
26 February 2009.

Edited by:

Silvia A. Bunge, University of California Berkeley, USA

Reviewed by:

Deborah Serrien, University of Nottingham, UK
Silvia A. Bunge, University of California Berkeley, USA
Copyright:
© 2009 Krieghoff, Brass, Prinz and Waszak. This is an open-access article subject to an exclusive license agreement between the authors and the Frontiers Research Foundation, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original authors and source are credited.
*Correspondence:
Veronika Krieghoff, Max-Planck-Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Stephanstr. 1a, 04103 Leipzig, Germany. e-mail: veronika.krieghoff@cbs.mpg.de