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

Journal: Trends in cognitive sciences


At the centenary of D'Arcy Thompson’s seminal work ‘On Growth and Form’, pioneering the description of principles of morphological changes during development and evolution, recent experimental advances allow us to study change in anatomical brain networks. Here, we outline potential principles for connectome development. We will describe recent results on how spatial and temporal factors shape connectome development in health and disease. Understanding the developmental origins of brain diseases in individuals will be crucial for deciding on personalized treatment options. We argue that longitudinal studies, experimentally derived parameters for connection formation, and biologically realistic computational models are needed to better understand the link between brain network development, network structure, and network function.

Concepts: Medicine, Epidemiology, Disease, Infectious disease, Causality, Biology, Sociology, Computational neuroscience


A recent study demonstrates that intersubject variability in functional connectivity is heterogeneous across the cortex, with significantly higher variability in multimodal association cortex. Rather than being ‘noise’, intersubject variability is invaluable for understanding principles of brain evolution and ontogenetic development, and for interpreting statistical maps in task-based functional neuroimaging studies.

Concepts: Brain, Developmental biology, Neuroimaging, Cerebral cortex, Evolutionary developmental biology, Functional neuroimaging


Decades of research have established two central roles of the hippocampus - memory consolidation and spatial navigation. Recently, a third function of the hippocampus has been proposed: simulating future events. However, claims that the neural patterns underlying simulation occur without prior experience have come under fire in light of newly published data.

Concepts: Time, Amygdala, Mathematics, Engineering, Memory, Episodic memory


Deep reinforcement learning (RL) methods have driven impressive advances in artificial intelligence in recent years, exceeding human performance in domains ranging from Atari to Go to no-limit poker. This progress has drawn the attention of cognitive scientists interested in understanding human learning. However, the concern has been raised that deep RL may be too sample-inefficient - that is, it may simply be too slow - to provide a plausible model of how humans learn. In the present review, we counter this critique by describing recently developed techniques that allow deep RL to operate more nimbly, solving problems much more quickly than previous methods. Although these techniques were developed in an AI context, we propose that they may have rich implications for psychology and neuroscience. A key insight, arising from these AI methods, concerns the fundamental connection between fast RL and slower, more incremental forms of learning.


Many brain regions have been defined, but a comprehensive formalization of each region’s function in relation to human behavior is still lacking. Current knowledge comes from various fields, which have diverse conceptions of ‘functions’. We briefly review these fields and outline how the heterogeneity of associations could be harnessed to disclose the computational function of any region. Aggregating activation data from neuroimaging studies allows us to characterize the functional engagement of a region across a range of experimental conditions. Furthermore, large-sample data can disclose covariation between brain region features and ecological behavioral phenotyping. Combining these two approaches opens a new perspective to determine the behavioral associations of a brain region, and hence its function and broader role within large-scale functional networks.

Concepts: Psychology, Human brain, Cerebrum, Behavior, Motivation, Human behavior, Lambda calculus, Tuple


Music is used to regulate mood and arousal in everyday life and to promote physical and psychological health and well-being in clinical settings. However, scientific inquiry into the neurochemical effects of music is still in its infancy. In this review, we evaluate the evidence that music improves health and well-being through the engagement of neurochemical systems for (i) reward, motivation, and pleasure; (ii) stress and arousal; (iii) immunity; and (iv) social affiliation. We discuss the limitations of these studies and outline novel approaches for integration of conceptual and technological advances from the fields of music cognition and social neuroscience into studies of the neurochemistry of music.

Concepts: Psychology, Neuroscience, Cognition, Cognitive science, Cognitive neuroscience, Psychiatry, Emotion, Neurochemical


Never before have we experienced social isolation on such a massive scale as we have in response to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). However, we know that the social environment has a dramatic impact on our sense of life satisfaction and well-being. In times of distress, crisis, or disaster, human resilience depends on the richness and strength of social connections, as well as on active engagement in groups and communities. Over recent years, evidence emerging from various disciplines has made it abundantly clear: perceived social isolation (i.e., loneliness) may be the most potent threat to survival and longevity. We highlight the benefits of social bonds, the choreographies of bond creation and maintenance, as well as the neurocognitive basis of social isolation and its deep consequences for mental and physical health.


How does consciousness vary across the animal kingdom? Are some animals ‘more conscious’ than others? This article presents a multidimensional framework for understanding interspecies variation in states of consciousness. The framework distinguishes five key dimensions of variation: perceptual richness, evaluative richness, integration at a time, integration across time, and self-consciousness. For each dimension, existing experiments that bear on it are reviewed and future experiments are suggested. By assessing a given species against each dimension, we can construct a consciousness profile for that species. On this framework, there is no single scale along which species can be ranked as more or less conscious. Rather, each species has its own distinctive consciousness profile.


An enduring aim of research in the psychological and brain sciences is to understand the nature of individual differences in human intelligence, examining the stunning breadth and diversity of intellectual abilities and the remarkable neurobiological mechanisms from which they arise. This Opinion article surveys recent neuroscience evidence to elucidate how general intelligence, g, emerges from individual differences in the network architecture of the human brain. The reviewed findings motivate new insights about how network topology and dynamics account for individual differences in g, represented by the Network Neuroscience Theory. According to this framework, g emerges from the small-world topology of brain networks and the dynamic reorganization of its community structure in the service of system-wide flexibility and adaptation.

Concepts: Nervous system, Psychology, Neuroanatomy, Brain, Human brain, Science, Educational psychology, Intelligence


This review article summarises recently proposed theories on how neural circuits in the brain could approximate the error back-propagation algorithm used by artificial neural networks. Computational models implementing these theories achieve learning as efficient as artificial neural networks, but they use simple synaptic plasticity rules based on activity of presynaptic and postsynaptic neurons. The models have similarities, such as including both feedforward and feedback connections, allowing information about error to propagate throughout the network. Furthermore, they incorporate experimental evidence on neural connectivity, responses, and plasticity. These models provide insights on how brain networks might be organised such that modification of synaptic weights on multiple levels of cortical hierarchy leads to improved performance on tasks.