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The medial frontal cortex has been linked to voluntary action, but an explanation of why decisions to act emerge at particular points in time has been lacking. We show that, in macaques, decisions about whether and when to act are predicted by a set of features defining the animal's current and past context; for example, respectively, cues indicating the current average rate of reward and recent previous voluntary action decisions. We show that activity in two brain areas-the anterior cingulate cortex and basal forebrain-tracks these contextual factors and mediates their effects on behavior in distinct ways. We use focused transcranial ultrasound to selectively and effectively stimulate deep in the brain, even as deep as the basal forebrain, and demonstrate that alteration of activity in the two areas changes decisions about when to act.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





370 - 384.e8


basal forebrain, cingulate cortex, decision making, fMRI, macaque, self-initiated action, transcranial ultrasound stimulation, Acoustic Stimulation, Animals, Basal Forebrain, Cues, Decision Making, Deep Brain Stimulation, Functional Neuroimaging, Gyrus Cinguli, Macaca, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Neural Pathways, Time Factors, Ultrasonic Waves