What is the intention to move and when does it occur?

Antonio I. Triggiani, Gabriel Kreiman, Cara Lewis, Uri Maoz, Alfred Mele, Liad Mudrik, Adina L. Roskies, Aaron Schurger, Mark Hallett*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


In 1983 Benjamin Libet and colleagues published a paper apparently challenging the view that the conscious intention to move precedes the brain's preparation for movement. The experiment initiated debates about the nature of intention, the neurophysiology of movement, and philosophical and legal understanding of free will and moral responsibility. Here we review the concept of “conscious intention” and attempts to measure its timing. Scalp electroencephalographic activity prior to movement, the Bereitschaftspotential, clearly begins prior to the reported onset of conscious intent. However, the interpretation of this finding remains controversial. Numerous studies show that the Libet method for determining intent, W time, is not accurate and may be misleading. We conclude that intention has many different aspects, and although we now understand much more about how the brain makes movements, identifying the time of conscious intention is still elusive.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105199
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • Bereitschaftspotential
  • Consciousness
  • Free will
  • Intention
  • Movement
  • Readiness potential


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