The kinematic signature of voluntary actions

Cristina Becchio, Debora Zanatto, Elisa Straulino, Andrea Cavallo, Giuseppe Sartori, Umberto Castiello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Research in the field of psychology and cognitive neuroscience has begun to explore the functional underpinnings of voluntary actions and how they differ from stimulus-driven actions. From these studies one can conclude that the two action modes differ with respect to their neural and behavioural correlates. So far, however, no study has investigated whether the voluntary and stimulus-driven actions also differ in terms of motor programming. We report two experiments in which participants had to perform either voluntary or stimulus-driven reach-to-grasp actions upon the same stimulus. Using kinematic methods, in Experiment 1 we obtained evidence that voluntary actions and stimulus-driven actions translate into differential movement patterns. Results for Experiments 2 suggest that selecting what to do, when to act, and whether to act are characterized by specific kinematic signatures and affect different aspects of the reach-to-grasp movement in a selective fashion. These findings add to current models of volition suggesting that voluntary action control results from an interplay of dissociable subfunctions related to specific decision components: what action execute, when to execute an action, and whether to execute any action.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-175
Number of pages7
Early online date1 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014


  • voluntary actions
  • stimulus-driven actions
  • kinematics
  • reach-to-grasp
  • motor control


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