Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Journal: Frontiers in human neuroscience


Most researchers acknowledge an intrinsic hierarchy in the scholarly journals (“journal rank”) that they submit their work to, and adjust not only their submission but also their reading strategies accordingly. On the other hand, much has been written about the negative effects of institutionalizing journal rank as an impact measure. So far, contributions to the debate concerning the limitations of journal rank as a scientific impact assessment tool have either lacked data, or relied on only a few studies. In this review, we present the most recent and pertinent data on the consequences of our current scholarly communication system with respect to various measures of scientific quality (such as utility/citations, methodological soundness, expert ratings or retractions). These data corroborate previous hypotheses: using journal rank as an assessment tool is bad scientific practice. Moreover, the data lead us to argue that any journal rank (not only the currently-favored Impact Factor) would have this negative impact. Therefore, we suggest that abandoning journals altogether, in favor of a library-based scholarly communication system, will ultimately be necessary. This new system will use modern information technology to vastly improve the filter, sort and discovery functions of the current journal system.

Concepts: Scientific method, Logic, Impact factor, Scientific journal, Technology, Journal, Kurt Cobain, PageRank


Making new breakthroughs in understanding the processes underlying human cognition may depend on the availability of very large datasets that have not historically existed in psychology and neuroscience. Lumosity is a web-based cognitive training platform that has grown to include over 600 million cognitive training task results from over 35 million individuals, comprising the largest existing dataset of human cognitive performance. As part of the Human Cognition Project, Lumosity’s collaborative research program to understand the human mind, Lumos Labs researchers and external research collaborators have begun to explore this dataset in order uncover novel insights about the correlates of cognitive performance. This paper presents two preliminary demonstrations of some of the kinds of questions that can be examined with the dataset. The first example focuses on replicating known findings relating lifestyle factors to baseline cognitive performance in a demographically diverse, healthy population at a much larger scale than has previously been available. The second example examines a question that would likely be very difficult to study in laboratory-based and existing online experimental research approaches at a large scale: specifically, how learning ability for different types of cognitive tasks changes with age. We hope that these examples will provoke the imagination of researchers who are interested in collaborating to answer fundamental questions about human cognitive performance.

Concepts: Psychology, Cognition, Cognitive science, Perception, Mind, Thought, Cognitive neuroscience, Collaboration


To further test and explore the hypothesis that synchronous oscillatory brain activity supports interpersonally coordinated behavior during dyadic music performance, we simultaneously recorded the electroencephalogram (EEG) from the brains of each of 12 guitar duets repeatedly playing a modified Rondo in two voices by C.G. Scheidler. Indicators of phase locking and of within-brain and between-brain phase coherence were obtained from complex time-frequency signals based on the Gabor transform. Analyses were restricted to the delta (1-4 Hz) and theta (4-8 Hz) frequency bands. We found that phase locking as well as within-brain and between-brain phase-coherence connection strengths were enhanced at frontal and central electrodes during periods that put particularly high demands on musical coordination. Phase locking was modulated in relation to the experimentally assigned musical roles of leader and follower, corroborating the functional significance of synchronous oscillations in dyadic music performance. Graph theory analyses revealed within-brain and hyperbrain networks with small-worldness properties that were enhanced during musical coordination periods, and community structures encompassing electrodes from both brains (hyperbrain modules). We conclude that brain mechanisms indexed by phase locking, phase coherence, and structural properties of within-brain and hyperbrain networks support interpersonal action coordination (IAC).

Concepts: Brain, Electroencephalography, Evoked potential, Music, Delta wave


Creativity is a vast construct, seemingly intractable to scientific inquiry-perhaps due to the vague concepts applied to the field of research. One attempt to limit the purview of creative cognition formulates the construct in terms of evolutionary constraints, namely that of blind variation and selective retention (BVSR). Behaviorally, one can limit the “blind variation” component to idea generation tests as manifested by measures of divergent thinking. The “selective retention” component can be represented by measures of convergent thinking, as represented by measures of remote associates. We summarize results from measures of creative cognition, correlated with structural neuroimaging measures including structural magnetic resonance imaging (sMRI), diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), and proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS). We also review lesion studies, considered to be the “gold standard” of brain-behavioral studies. What emerges is a picture consistent with theories of disinhibitory brain features subserving creative cognition, as described previously (Martindale, 1981). We provide a perspective, involving aspects of the default mode network (DMN), which might provide a “first approximation” regarding how creative cognition might map on to the human brain.

Concepts: Brain, Medical imaging, Neuroimaging, Nuclear magnetic resonance, Magnetic resonance imaging, Thought, Diffusion MRI, In vivo magnetic resonance spectroscopy


Following the demise of the polygraph, supporters of assisted scientific lie detection tools have enthusiastically appropriated neuroimaging technologies “as the savior of scientifically verifiable lie detection in the courtroom” (Gerard, 2008: 5). These proponents believe the future impact of neuroscience “will be inevitable, dramatic, and will fundamentally alter the way the law does business” (Erickson, 2010: 29); however, such enthusiasm may prove premature. For in nearly every article published by independent researchers in peer reviewed journals, the respective authors acknowledge that fMRI research, processes, and technology are insufficiently developed and understood for gatekeepers to even consider introducing these neuroimaging measures into criminal courts as they stand today for the purpose of determining the veracity of statements made. Regardless of how favorable their analyses of fMRI or its future potential, they all acknowledge the presence of issues yet to be resolved. Even assuming a future where these issues are resolved and an appropriate fMRI lie-detection process is developed, its integration into criminal trials is not assured for the very success of such a future system may necessitate its exclusion from courtrooms on the basis of existing legal and ethical prohibitions. In this piece, aimed for a multidisciplinary readership, we seek to highlight and bring together the multitude of hurdles which would need to be successfully overcome before fMRI can (if ever) be a viable applied lie detection system. We argue that the current status of fMRI studies on lie detection meets neither basic legal nor scientific standards. We identify four general classes of hurdles (scientific, legal and ethical, operational, and social) and provide an overview on the stages and operations involved in fMRI studies, as well as the difficulties of translating these laboratory protocols into a practical criminal justice environment. It is our overall conclusion that fMRI is unlikely to constitute a viable lie detector for criminal courts.

Concepts: Scientific method, Future, Neuroscience, Magnetic resonance imaging, Functional magnetic resonance imaging, Lie, Lie detection, Polygraph


Our reputation is important to us; we’ve experienced natural selection to care about our reputation. Recently, the neural processing of gains in reputation (positive social feedback concerning one’s character) has been shown to occur in the human ventral striatum. It is still unclear, however, how individual differences in the processing of gains in reputation may lead to individual differences in real-world behavior. For example, in the real-world, one way that people currently maintain their reputation is by using social media websites, like Facebook. Furthermore, Facebook use consists of a social comparison component, where users observe others' behavior and can compare it to their own. Therefore, we hypothesized a relationship between the way the brain processes specifically self-relevant gains in reputation and one’s degree of Facebook use. We recorded functional neuroimaging data while participants received gains in reputation, observed the gains in reputation of another person, or received monetary reward. We demonstrate that across participants, when responding to gains in reputation for the self, relative to observing gains for others, reward-related activity in the left nucleus accumbens predicts Facebook use. However, nucleus accumbens activity in response to monetary reward did not predict Facebook use. Finally, a control step-wise regression analysis showed that Facebook use primarily explains our results in the nucleus accumbens. Overall, our results demonstrate how individual sensitivity of the nucleus accumbens to the receipt of self-relevant social information leads to differences in real-world behavior.

Concepts: Scientific method, Ventral tegmental area, Observation, Hypothesis, Striatum, Nucleus accumbens, Social media, Ventral striatum


The association between human hippocampal structure and topographical memory was investigated in healthy adults (N = 30). Structural MR images were acquired, and voxel-based morphometry (VBM) was used to estimate local gray matter volume throughout the brain. A complementary automated mesh-based segmentation approach was used to independently isolate and measure specified structures including the hippocampus. Topographical memory was assessed using a version of the Four Mountains Task, a short test designed to target hippocampal spatial function. Each item requires subjects to briefly study a landscape scene before recognizing the depicted place from a novel viewpoint and under altered non-spatial conditions when presented amongst similar alternative scenes. Positive correlations between topographical memory performance and hippocampal volume were observed in both VBM and segmentation-based analyses. Score on the topographical memory task was also correlated with the volume of some subcortical structures, extra-hippocampal gray matter, and total brain volume, with the most robust and extensive covariation seen in circumscribed neocortical regions in the insula and anterior temporal lobes. Taken together with earlier findings, the results suggest that global variations in brain morphology affect the volume of the hippocampus and its specific contribution to topographical memory. We speculate that behavioral variation might arise directly through the impact of resource constraints on spatial representations in the hippocampal formation and its inputs, and perhaps indirectly through an increased reliance on non-allocentric strategies.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Cerebral cortex, Memory, Temporal lobe, Cerebrum, Hippocampus, Long-term potentiation


Several observations suggest that overlearned ordinal categories (e.g., letters, numbers, weekdays, months) are processed differently than non-ordinal categories in the brain. In synesthesia, for example, anomalous perceptual experiences are most often triggered by members of ordinal categories (Rich et al., 2005; Eagleman, 2009). In semantic dementia (SD), the processing of ordinal stimuli appears to be preserved relative to non-ordinal ones (Cappelletti et al., 2001). Moreover, ordinal stimuli often map onto unconscious spatial representations, as observed in the SNARC effect (Dehaene et al., 1993; Fias, 1996). At present, little is known about the neural representation of ordinal categories. Using functional neuroimaging, we show that words in ordinal categories are processed in a fronto-temporo-parietal network biased toward the right hemisphere. This differs from words in non-ordinal categories (such as names of furniture, animals, cars, and fruit), which show an expected bias toward the left hemisphere. Further, we find that increased predictability of stimulus order correlates with smaller regions of BOLD activation, a phenomenon we term prediction suppression. Our results provide new insights into the processing of ordinal stimuli, and suggest a new anatomical framework for understanding the patterns seen in synesthesia, unconscious spatial representation, and SD.

Concepts: Scientific method, Brain, Neuroimaging, Neuroscience, Human brain, Observation, Mind, Knowledge


Both situational (e.g., perceived power) and sustained social factors (e.g., cultural stereotypes) are known to affect how people academically perform, particularly in the domain of mathematics. The ability to compute even simple mathematics, such as addition, relies on distinct neural circuitry within the inferior parietal and inferior frontal lobes, brain regions where magnitude representation and addition are performed. Despite prior behavioral evidence of social influence on academic performance, little is known about whether or not temporarily heightening a person’s sense of power may influence the neural bases of math calculation. Here we primed female participants with either high or low power (LP) and then measured neural response while they performed exact and approximate math problems. We found that priming power affected math performance; specifically, females primed with high power (HP) performed better on approximate math calculation compared to females primed with LP. Furthermore, neural response within the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), a region previously associated with cognitive interference, was reduced for females in the HP compared to LP group. Taken together, these results indicate that even temporarily heightening a person’s sense of social power can increase their math performance, possibly by reducing cognitive interference during math performance.

Concepts: Psychology, Mathematics, Human brain, Cerebrum, Perception, Performance, Frontal lobe, Inferior frontal gyrus


We contrasted the predictive power of three measures of semantic richness-number of features (NFs), contextual dispersion (CD), and a novel measure of number of semantic neighbors (NSN)-for a large set of concrete and abstract concepts on lexical decision and naming tasks. NSN (but not NF) facilitated processing for abstract concepts, while NF (but not NSN) facilitated processing for the most concrete concepts, consistent with claims that linguistic information is more relevant for abstract concepts in early processing. Additionally, converging evidence from two datasets suggests that when NSN and CD are controlled for, the features that most facilitate processing are those associated with a concept’s physical characteristics and real-world contexts. These results suggest that rich linguistic contexts (many semantic neighbors) facilitate early activation of abstract concepts, whereas concrete concepts benefit more from rich physical contexts (many associated objects and locations).

Concepts: Ontology, Semantics, Idea, Concept, Object, Abstraction, Semiotics, Cognitive linguistics