Scientific article
Open access

Breathing is coupled with voluntary action and the cortical readiness potential

Published inNature Communications, vol. 11, no. 1, 289
Publication date2020

Voluntary action is a fundamental element of self-consciousness. The readiness potential (RP), a slow drift of neural activity preceding self-initiated movement, has been suggested to reflect neural processes underlying the preparation of voluntary action; yet more than fifty years after its introduction, interpretation of the RP remains controversial. Based on previous research showing that internal bodily signals affect sensory processing and ongoing neural activity, we here investigated the potential role of interoceptive signals in voluntary action and the RP. We report that (1) participants initiate voluntary actions more frequently during expiration, (2) this respiration-action coupling is absent during externally triggered actions, and (3) the RP amplitude is modulated depending on the respiratory phase. Our findings demonstrate that voluntary action is coupled with the respiratory system and further suggest that the RP is associated with fluctuations of ongoing neural activity that are driven by the involuntary and cyclic motor act of breathing.

  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain Chemistry
  • Contingent Negative Variation
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Respiration
  • Young Adult
Citation (ISO format)
PARK, Hyeong-Dong et al. Breathing is coupled with voluntary action and the cortical readiness potential. In: Nature Communications, 2020, vol. 11, n° 1, p. 289. doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-13967-9
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ISSN of the journal2041-1723

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