Intentionality and 'free-will' from a neurodevelopmental perspective

Gerry Leisman, Calixto Macahdo, Robert Melillo, Raed Mualem

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The nature of free-will as a subset of intentionality and probabilistic and deterministic function is explored with the indications being that human behavior is highly predictable which in turn, should compromise the notion of free-will. Data supports the notion that age relates to the ability to progressively more effectively establish goals performed by fixed action patterns and that these FAPs produce outcomes that in turn modify choices (free-will) of which fixed action patterns need to be employed. Early goals require behaviors that requiring greater automation in terms of FAPs leading to goals being achieved or not; if not, then one can change behavior and that in turn is free-will. Goals change with age based on experience which is similar to the way in which movement functions. We hypothesize that human prefrontal cortex development was a natural expansion of the evolutionarily earlier developed areas of the frontal lobe and that goal directed movements and behavior including choice and free-will provided for an expansion of those areas. The same regions of the human central nervous system that were already employed for better control, coordination, and timing of movements, expanded in parallel with the frontal cortex. The initial focus of the frontal lobes was the control of motor activity, but as the movements became more goal-directed, greater cognitive control over movement was necessitated consequently leading to voluntary control of FAPs or free-will. The paper reviews the neurobiology, neurohistology, and electrophysiology of brain connectivities developmentally, along with the development of those brain functions linked to decision-making from a developmental viewpoint. The investigation includes the neurological development of the frontal lobes and interregional brain connectivities in the context of optimization of communication systems with the brain and nervous system and its relation to free-will.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers in Integrative Neuroscience
Issue numberMAY 2012
StatePublished - 31 May 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Electrophysiology
  • Fixed-action patterns
  • Free-will
  • Frontal-lobe
  • Functional connection
  • Goal direction
  • Self-regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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