Lüder Deecke

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Lüder Deecke
Portrait of Lüder Deecke.jpg
Born (1938-06-22) June 22, 1938 (age 77)
Lohe-Rickelshof, Germany
Residence Austria
Citizenship Germann-Austrian
Nationality Germann-Austrian
Fields Neurology, Clinical neurology, Neurophysiology, Clinical neurophysiology, Neuroscience, Clinical neuroscience
Institutions University of Vienna
Known for discovery of the Bereitschaftspotential and Supplementary motor area
Influenced Free will research and discussion
Notable awards Hans-Berger-Award, Prix Théophile Gluge, of the Royal Belgian Academy of Sciences, Brussels

Lüder Deecke (German: [ˈdeːkə]; born 22 June 1938) in Lohe-Rickelshof, Germany is a German Austrian neurologist, neuroscientist, teacher and physician whose scientific discoveries have influenced brain research and the treatment and rehabilitation of neurological disorders.

Full Professor and Head, Department of Clinical Neurology at the University of Vienna Medical University of Vienna, professor emeritus since Oct. 2006, Deecke is also head of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Functional Brain Topography and is the author of a number of books and more than 580 publications in the fields of neurology, clinical neurology, neurophysiology, clinical neurophysiology, neurosciences, brain research, movement disorders, etc.

His early research with Hans Helmut Kornhuber in the mid sixties led to the discovery of the Bereitschaftspotential (or readiness potential), which is a measure of neural activity in the brain that precedes voluntary movements. This discovery set an important standard in research and rehabilitation of motor systems, and re-introduced the word will in key word registers.


Deecke was born in Lohe-Rickelshof, Germany on 22 June 1938. After obtaining (high-school diploma at the Humanistisches Gymnasium Ernestinum in Celle in 1958, Deecke began the study of physics at the University of Hamburg. 1959 he was drafted for military service finishing the service in 1960 as a lieutenant. From 1960 to 1965 he studied medicine in Freiburg im Breisgau, Hamburg and Vienna with a scholarship of the German National Academic Foundation (Studienstiftung). In 1966 he became M.D. with a doctoral thesis about the Bereitschaftspotential, which he had discovered together with Hans Helmut Kornhuber. From 1964 to 1966 he worked at the Neurological University Hospital of Freiburg under Richard Jung and from 1967 to 1970 at the Neurological University Hospital of Ulm under Kornhuber. After a scientific stay as Research Fellow at the University of Toronto from 1970 to 1971, he completed his habilitation in 1974 and became Professor of Neurology and Neurophysiology. In 1982 he was Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, later awarded with a honorary doctor there in 2003. In 1985 he was appointed to the chair of Clinical Neurology at the University of Vienna and became head of the Neurological University Hospital of Vienna (till 2000). 1991 Deecke also became head of the Department of Clinical Neurology. In 1991 he was Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of California, Irvine with Arnold Starr. 1993 Deecke founded the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Functional Brain Topography in Vienna. In 2006 Deecke has been professor emeritus.

Scientific contribution[edit]

In 1964 Deecke performed as doctoral student of Hans Helmut Kornhuber EEG-recordings in man accompanying volitional movements and actions, and they discovered a slowly increasing activation (negative deflection) in the EEG, which they called Bereitschaftspotential.[1] The term Bereitschaftspotential (BP) can be found in the ‘List of German expressions in English‘. In order to record brain activity prior to an unforseeable event – which a voluntary movement undoubtedly is – it needs a special Method: the reverse averaging, which was invented by Kornhuber & Deecke in the same year (1964).[2] The full paper appeared in 1965 [2] and was awarded a Citation Classic.[3]

In 1970 to 1971 Deecke was a research fellow in Toronto, Canada under John M. Fredrickson. He performed experiments in the vestibular system (sense of balance) with Rhesus monkeys and found the thalamic relay nucleus, Nucleus ventralis posterior inferior (VPI) for the vestibular projection to the cortex.[4] In a second project he investigated – with the rhesus monkey – normothermic perfusion as a therapeutic means with spinal cord compression,[5] and as a third project the alterations of the auditory evoked potentials under respiratory stress.[6]

In 1978 a further Citation Classic appeared with the discovery that the supplementary motor area (SMA) is active prior to voluntary actions and also prior to the activation of the primary motor cortex (M1, Brodmann-Areal).[7] This publication established the scientific knowledge that the early component of the Bereitschaftspotentials (BP1 or BPearly) is generated by the activity of the SMA. BP1 ist bilaterally-symmetrical, because always – i.e. also with unilateral actions – the SMAs of both hemispheres are active. The second component of the Bereitschaftspotential (BP2 oder BPlate) is generated by the primary motor cortex M1, and BP2 is asymmetrical with unilateral movements, namely dominant over the contralateral hemisphere. In 1982 during Deecke‘s visiting professorship on invitation of Hal Weinberg in Vancouver, the Magnetoencephalographic-(MEG-) analogue of the Bereitschaftspotential, the Bereitschaftsmagnetfeld (Bereitschaftsfield, BF) has been first recorded.[8]

From 1985 on in Vienna, Deecke has built his own MEG, the first generation with a 5-channel MEG-System, and from 1995 on with the MEG Centre Vienna an MEG-hole head system with 143 channels (CTF Vancouver, Canada) has been established. Deecke and his team were successful to prove the participation of the SMA not only with the early Bereitschaftspotential but also with the Bereitschaftsmagnetfeld (Bereitschaftsfield in the MEG, solving the cancellation problem of the two SMAs opposing eachother.[9][10] In 1984 visual tracking movements were investigated.[11] Evidence was found that the frontal cortex (SMA, prefrontal cortex) gives the starting command of the the movement or action and supervises it, but the SMA does not execute the action. The frontal brain (including the SMA) is ‘delegating this to the ‘expert systems for tracking in the brain,‘ namely to the visual cortex and to the M1.[11]

In 2002 the term ‘Bereitschafts-BOLD response wa coined by Ross Cunnington et al. in event-related fMRI studies at the Department of Clinical Neurology and the Department of Radiodiagnostics Medical University of Vienna.[12][13][14] Thus, according to Deecke und Kornhuber [7],[15],[16] the early component of the BP (BP1 or BPearly) is generated by the following arias: the SMA proper, the pre-SMA and the cingulate motor area, CMA. This is now called anterior mid-cingulate cortex, aMCC. The 2nd component (BP2 or BP late) is generated by the motor cortex (M1). Contrary to earlier views, the intentional activity according to Kornhuber and Deecke does not travel directly from the SMA to motor cortex M1 but is running via the cortico-basalganglio-thalamo-cortical loop in short motor loop. This means that the formation of the will has already taken place in the frontal lobe and the preparation and planning of the action has been transfered initially to the unconscious routine processes of the basal ganglia, which do the groundwork for the motor cortex, M1.[15][16] M1 finally generates the volley for the pyramidal tract, which then enters consciousness.[15] During the early BP, BP1, the action planning is not yet conscious, but during BP2 it is. From this observation Benjamin Libet,[17] postulated that we do not have free will (BP1) but with the control of the action (BP2) we do have free will. However, Kornhuber and Deecke,[15][16] have shown that consciousness is not a sine qua non for free will. There are conscious and unconscious agendas in the brain, and both are important. The unconscious agendas far outweigh the conscious agendas, consciousness being only the ‘tip of an iceberg’. Therefore, free will is involved with both, the initiation of the action and for the control of the action.[15][16]

The views of Kornhuber and Deecke upon the SMA and CMA[7][15][16] were confirmed in the meantime by Ross Cunnington and his team: The limbic system is always involved in the early planning for action – the matching with the inner needs, the emotional basic state, and our respective mood – has been postulated by Kornhuber and Deecke for quite some time [15][16] and has been confirmed recently by the Cunnington group.[18] Kornhuber and Deecke have shown that freedom is given, a freedom in degrees of freedom, that humans can regulate up by their own efforts and learning in order to improve their free will, which is not a granted state but a dynamic process.[15][16]

Awards and recognitions[edit]

  • 2009 Prix Théophile Gluge, of the Royal Belgian Academy of Sciences, Brussels, Belgium
  • 1997 Hoechst Award
  • 1989 Dr. Herbert Reisner Award
  • 1971 Scientific Award of the City of Ulm[19]


Deecke had memberships of 52 international and national scientific organizations during his active time till October 2006. In 1987 he was president of the Österreichische Multiple-Sklerose-Gesellschaft. In 2015 he was elected Chair of the subspecialty scientific panel (SPP) on Higher Cortical Functions of European Academy of Neurology (EAN). Deecke was also in several Editorial Boards of scientific journals.



  • with K. Zeiler und E. Auff (ed.): Klinische Neurologie. Facultas Universitätsverlag, Wien 2006, ISBN 3-85076-751-5.
  • with Jürgen Kriz: Sinnorientiertes Wollen und Handeln zwischen Hirnphysiologie und kultureller Gestaltungsleistung. Picus, Wien 2007, ISBN 978-3-85452-527-1.
  • with Hans Helmut Kornhuber: Wille und Gehirn. 2nd. rev. ed. Edition Sirius im Aisthesis-Verlag, Bielefeld/ Locarno 2009, ISBN 978-3-89528-628-5.
  • Was ist Geist aus der Sicht der Hirnforschung? In: Kurt Appel, H. P. Weber, Rudolf Langthaler, Sigrid Müller (eds.): Naturalisierung des Geistes? Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2008, ISBN 978-3-8260-3811-2.
  • Freies Wollen und Handeln aus dem Urgrund der Seele. In: M. F. Peschl (ed.): Die Rolle der Seele in der Kognitions- und Neurowissenschaft. Auf der Suche nach dem Substrat der Seele. Königshausen & Neumann Würzburg 2005, ISBN 3-8260-2909-7, S. 63–108.
  • Ist Geist neurophysiologisch fassbar? In: M. F. Peschl, A. Batthyany (eds.): Geist als Ursache? Mentale Verursachung im interdisziplinären Diskurs. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2008, ISBN 978-3-8260-3806-8, S. 121–161.
  • Die Gedanken sind frei – der Wille ist frei. Willensfestigung als psychotherapeutisches Behandlungselement. In: O. Wiesmeyr, A. Batthyany (ed.): Sinn und Person. Beitr. z. Logotherapie und Existenzanalyse von Viktor E. Frankl. (= Beltz-Taschenbuch 179). Beltz Verlag, Weinheim/ Basel 2006, ISBN 3-407-22179-7, S. 331–372.
  • with Eccles, John, Mountcastle, Vernon B. (Eds.). From Neuron to Action. An Appraisal of Fundamental and Clinical Research. Springer 1990.

Scientific articles

Deecke published 600 scientific papers:

Publication list on private Homepage

ResearchGate Publication list

External links[edit]

See also[edit]

Free will

Motor cortex

Benjamin Libet


  1. ^ H. H. Kornhuber, L. Deecke: Hirnpotentialänderungen beim Menschen vor und nach Willkürbewegungen, dargestellt mit Magnetbandspeicherung und Rückwärtsanalyse. In: Pflügers Arch. 281, 1964, S. 52.
  2. ^ H. H. Kornhuber, L. Deecke: Hirnpotentialänderungen bei Willkürbewegungen und passiven Bewegungen des Menschen: Bereitschaftspotential und reafferente Potentiale. In: Pflügers Arch. 284, 1965, S. 1–17.
  3. ^ H. H. Kornhuber, L. Deecke: Readiness for movement - the Bereit¬schaftspotential story. In: Current Contents Life Sciences. 33 (4): 14 (1990) und Current Contents Clinical Medicine. 18 (4): 14 (1990)
  4. ^ L. Deecke, DWF Schwarz, JM Fredrickson: Nucleus ventroposterior inferior (VPI) as the vestibular thalamic relay in the rhesus monkey. I. Field potential investigation. Exp Brain Res 20: 88-100 (1974)
  5. ^ CH Tator, L. Deecke: Value of normothermic perfusion, hypothermic perfusion, and durotomy in the treatment of experimental acute spinal cord trauma. J Neurosurg 39: 52-64 (1973)
  6. ^ Deecke L, Goode RC, Whitehead G, Johnson WH, Bryce DP: Hearing under respiratory stress: Latency changes of the human auditory evoked response during hyperventilation, hypo¬xia, asphyxia, and hypercapnia. Aerospace Med 44: 1106-1111 (1973)
  7. ^ a b L. Deecke, H. H. Kornhuber: An electrical sign of participation of the mesial “supplementary” motor cortex in human voluntary finger movements. In: Brain Res. 159, 1978, S. 473–476, (Citation Classic).
  8. ^ L. Deecke, H. Weinberg, P. Brickett: Magnetic fields of the human brain accompanying voluntary movement. Bereitschaftsmagnetfeld. In: Exp Brain Res. 48, 1982, S. 144–148.
  9. ^ W. Lang, D. Cheyne, R. Kristeva, R. Beisteiner, G. Lindinger, L. Deecke: Three-dimensional localization of SMA activity preceding voluntary movement. A study of electric and ma¬gnetic fields in a patient with infarction of the right supplementary motor area. Exp Brain Res 87: 688-695 (1991)
  10. ^ M. Erdler, R. Beisteiner, D. Mayer, T. Kaindl, V. Edward, C. Windischberger, G. Lindinger, L. Deecke: Supplementary motor area activation preceding voluntary movement is detectable with a whole scalp magnetoencephalography system. NeuroImage 11: 697-707 (2000)
  11. ^ a b M. Lang, W. Lang, B. Heise, L. Deecke, H. H. Kornhuber: Brain potentials related to voluntary hand tracking, motivation and attention. In: Hum Neurobiol. 3, 1984, S. 235–240.
  12. ^ R. Cunnington, C. Windischberger, L. Deecke, E. Moser: The use of single event fMRI and fuzzy clustering analysis to examine haemodynamic response time courses in supplementary motor and primary motor cortical areas. Biomed Technik 44 (Suppl 2): 116-119 (1999)
  13. ^ R. Cunnington, C. Windischberger, L. Deecke, E. Moser: The preparation and execution of self-initiated and externally-triggered movement: A study of event-related fMRI. NeuroImage 15: 373-385 (2002)
  14. ^ R. Cunnington, C. Windischberger, L. Deecke, E. Moser: The preparation and readiness for voluntary movement: a high-field event-related fMRI study of the Bereitschafts-BOLD response. NeuroImage 20: 404-412 (2003)
  15. ^ a b c d e f g H. H. Kornhuber, L. Deecke: Wille und Gehirn. 2. überarb. Auflage. Edition Sirius/ Aisthesis-Verlag, Bielefeld/ Basel 2009, ISBN 978-3-89528-628-5.
  16. ^ a b c d e f H. H. Kornhuber, L. Deecke: The will and its brain – an appraisal of reasoned free will. University Press of America, Lanham MD, USA 2012, ISBN 978-0-7618-5862-1.
  17. ^ B. Libet, C. A. Gleason, E. W. Wright, D. K. Pearl: Time of conscious intention to act in relation to onset of cerebral activity (readiness potential): The unconscious initiation of a freely voluntary act. In: Brain. 106, 1983, S. 623–642.
  18. ^ V. T. Nguyen, M. Breakspear, R. Cunnington: Reciprocal interactions of the SMA and cingulate cortex sustain pre-movement activity for voluntary actions. In: J Neurosci. 34, 2014, S. 16397–16407.
  19. ^ [1] Lüder Deecke Homepage