On the difficulties of integrating evidence from fMRI and electrophysiology in cognitive neuroscience

Benjamin Y. Hayden and Michael L. Platt

in Decision Making, Affect, and Learning

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199600434
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191725623 | DOI:

Series: Attention and Performance

On the difficulties of integrating evidence from fMRI and electrophysiology in cognitive neuroscience

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Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and single unit physiology are two of the most widely-used methods in cognitive neuroscience and neuroeconomics. Despite the fact that practitioners of both methods share a common goal — understanding the mechanisms underlying behaviour and cognition — their efforts are rarely directly linked. This chapter considers some of the reasons for apparent discrepancies between findings of fMRI and electrophysiological studies. It examines these problems through the lens of two case studies — decision making under uncertainty and fictive learning — derived from personal research. Despite this narrow focus, these arguments can extend to other areas of study. It is shown that major differences in the neural events measured by the two methods, the behavioural techniques employed with animal and human subjects, and the intellectual history and unique culture of each discipline, contribute to difficulties in providing a wholly synthetic account of the mechanisms underlying cognition and decision making. These observations endorse more collaborative efforts conducting parallel research using analogous, if not identical, behavioural techniques using both brain imaging and single unit physiology.

Keywords: functional magnetic resonance imaging; fMRI; electrophysical studies; decision making; fictive learning; cognition

Chapter.  13523 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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