Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Dissociating What and When of Intentional Actions

By Veronika Krieghoff, Marcel Brass, Wolfgang Prinz and Florian Waszak


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

Topics: Neuroscience
Publisher: Frontiers Research Foundation
OAI identifier:
Provided by: PubMed Central

Suggested articles


  1. (2009). 3:3. doi: 10.3389/neuro.09.003.2009 Copyright ©
  2. (2004). Action sets and decisions in the medial frontal cortex.
  3. (1992). Age-related deficits in prospective memory: the influence of task complexity.
  4. (1995). Analysis of fMRI time-series revisited – again.
  5. (1995). Analysis of fMRI time-series revisited.
  6. (1998). Anterior cingulate cortex, error detection, and the online monitoring of performance.
  7. Attention to intention.
  8. (1998). Central cancellation of self-produced tickle sensation.
  9. (1995). Clustered pixels analysis for functional MRI activation studies of the human brain.
  10. (1988). Co-Planar Stereotaxic Atlas of the Human Brain, 3-Dimensional Proportional System: An Approach to Cerebral Imaging.
  11. (2004). Confl ict monitoring and anterior cingulate cortex: an update.
  12. (2001). Conflict monitoring and cognitive control.
  13. (2001). Connections of the medial posterior parietal cortex (area 7m) in the monkey.
  14. (2006). Differential components of prospective memory? Evidence from fMRI.
  15. (2006). Dissociating response selection and confl ict in the medial frontal surface.
  16. (2009). Dissociating what and when of intentional actions.
  17. (2007). Effect anticipation modulates deviance processing in the brain. Brain Res.
  18. (2006). From preparation to online control: reappraisal of neural circuitry mediating internally generated and externally guided actions.
  19. (2006). Implementation of visuospatial cues in response selection.
  20. (1995). Improved assessment of significant activation in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI): use of a cluster-size threshold.
  21. (2005). Intention-based and stimulus-based mechanisms in action selection.
  22. (2003). Intentional action: conscious experience and neural prediction.
  23. (2004). Interactions between decision making and performance monitoring within prefrontal cortex.
  24. (2003). Internal vs external generation of movements: differential neural pathways involved in bimanual coordination performed in the presence or absence of augmented visual feedback.
  25. (2001). LIPSIA – a new software system for the evaluation of functional magnetic resonance images of the human brain.
  26. (1999). Mesial motor areas in self-initiated versus externally triggered movements examined with fMRI: effect of movement type and rate.
  27. (2004). Movement preparation in self-initiated versus externally triggered movements: an event-related fMRI-study.
  28. (2008). paper pending published: 01
  29. (1997). Parietal cortex: From sight to action.
  30. (1997). Perception and action planning.
  31. (1996). Planning, preparation, execution, and imagery of volitional action.
  32. (2005). Prefrontal cortex activity in self-initiated Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
  33. (2005). Premovement activity of the pre-supplementary motor area and the readiness for action: studies of time-resolved event-related functional MRI.
  34. (1984). Projections to the frontal cortex from the posterior parietal region in the rhesus monkey.
  35. (2003). Reappraisal of the motor role of basal ganglia: a functional magnetic resonance image study.
  36. (1995). Self-initiated versus externally triggered movements. I. An investigation using measurement of regional cerebral blood fl ow with PET and movement-related potentials in normal and Parkinson’s disease subjects.
  37. (2000). Self-initiated versus externally triggered movements. II. The effect of movement predictability on regional cerebral blood flow.
  38. (1970). Sensory feedback mechanisms in performance control: with special reference to the ideomotor mechanism.
  39. (1985). Supplementary motor area structure and function: review and hypotheses.
  40. (1995). Synchronizing actions with events: the role of sensory information.
  41. (1999). The 25th Bartlett lecture. To act or not to act: perspectives on the representation of actions.
  42. (1971). The assessment and analysis of handedness: the Edinburgh inventory.
  43. (2002). The preparation and execution of selfinitiated and externally-triggered movement: a study of event-related fMRI.
  44. (2003). The preparation and readiness for voluntary movement: a highfield event-related fMRI study of the Bereitschafts-BOLD response.
  45. (2000). The prepared reflex: automaticity and control in stimulus-response translation.
  46. (1890). The Principles of Psychology.
  47. (2007). The role of the preSMA and the rostral cingulate zone in internally selected actions.
  48. (2006). The selection of intended actions and the observation of others’ actions: a time-resolved fMRI study.
  49. (2006). The substantia nigra pars compacta and temporal processing.
  50. (2001). The theory of event coding (TEC): a framework for perception and action planning.
  51. (2008). The what, when, whether model of intentional action.
  52. (2007). To do or not to do: the neural signature of selfcontrol.
  53. (2007). Two modes of sensorimotor integration in intention-based and stimulus-based actions.
  54. (2008). Unconscious determinants of free decisions in the human brain.
  55. (2006). Voluntary selection of task sets revealed by functional magnetic resonance imaging.
  56. (2004). Willed action and attention to the selection of action.
  57. (1998). Willed action and its impairments.

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.