The effects of transcranial magnetic stimulation were studied on the performance of a warned, forced-choice response time task by normal adults. The task consisted of extension of the index finger in response to the click produced by the discharge of the magnetic coil (go-signal). The subjects were asked to choose the right or left finger only after the go-signal was delivered. Single magnetic stimuli were delivered to the prefrontal or motor area, and in the control situation, away from the head. Magnetic stimulation affected hand preference only when it was delivered to the motor area. With stimulation of this area, subjects more often chose the hand contralateral to the site stimulated with response times that were mainly less than 200 ms. With longer response times (between 200 and 1100 ms), magnetic stimulation had no effect on hand preference regardless of the site stimulated. Stimulation of prefrontal areas yielded results similar to the control situation. These results suggest that response bias in this paradigm is caused by an effect of magnetic stimulation on neural structures within, or closely related to, the motor areas of the brain. Although the response bias was clear and predictable, the subjects were unaware of its existence. It is possible to influence endogenous processes of movement preparation externally without disrupting the conscious perception of volition.
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