Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 236, Issue 8, pp 2287–2297 | Cite as

The effect of conscious intention to act on the Bereitschaftspotential

  • Shiro TakashimaEmail author
  • André M. Cravo
  • Koichi Sameshima
  • Renato T. Ramos
Research Article


The current study investigated the effect of conscious intention to act on the Bereitschaftspotential. Situations in which the awareness of acting is minimally expressed were generated by asking 16 participants to press a button after performing a mental imagery task based on animal pictures (automatic condition). The affective responses induced by the pictures were controlled by selecting the animals according to different valences, threatening and neutral. The Bereitschaftspotential associated with the button presses was compared to the observed when similar movements were performed under the basic instructions of the self-paced movement paradigm (willed condition). Enhanced Bereitschaftspotential amplitudes were observed in the willed condition with respect to the automatic condition. This effect was manifested as a negative slope at medial frontocentral sites during the last 500 ms before movement onset. The valence of the pictures did not affect the motor preparatory potentials. The results suggest that significant part of the NS’ subcomponent of the readiness potential is associated with the attention to—and, presumably, awareness of—intention to move, possibly reflecting cortical activation from supplementary motor areas. Secondarily, our findings supports that the feeling of threat does not influence the Bereitschaftspotential associated with automatic movements. Regarding methodological issues, the behavioural model of spontaneous voluntary movements proposed in automatic condition can benefit investigations on purely motor (or non-cognitive) subcomponents of the Bereitschaftspotential.


Readiness potential Bereitschaftspotential EEG Conscious intention Volition 



This work was supported by the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP Grant No. #2011/21357-9). The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry, LIM23, Hospital das Clinicas HCFMUSP, Faculdade de MedicinaUniversidade de Sao PauloSao PauloBrazil
  2. 2.Centro de Matemática Computação e CogniçãoUniversidade Federal do ABCSanto AndréBrazil
  3. 3.Department of Radiology, Hospital das Clinicas HCFMUSP, Faculdade de MedicinaUniversidade de Sao PauloSao PauloBrazil
  4. 4.Frederick W. Thompson Anxiety Disorders Centre, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Department of PsychiatryUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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