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Explanation and Reproducibility: Foundational Issues in Cognitive Neuroscience

  • When April 21 , 2017, 11 a.m.
  • WhoAron Barbey, Ph.D.

    Associate Professor; Director, Decision Neuroscience Laboratory; Director, Intelligence Learning, and Plasticity Initiative; Department of Psychology; Beckman Institute; University of Illinois

  • Where Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, R3012
    2 Riverside Circle, Roanoke, VA 24016

Cognitive neuroscience seeks to discover the biological foundations of the human mind. That is, rather than re-describe the mind in biological terms, the goal is to explain how mental operations are generated by the information processing architecture of the human brain. Modern research in this effort faces two major challenges. The first concerns the explanatory power of neuroscience evidence and asks: Do brain states explain mental states? Dr. Barbey will discuss the merits of a widely accepted model answering this question, in the light of contemporary insights. He will also present an alternative framework that recognizes the explanatory role of cognitive neuroscience for understanding the human mind.

The second challenge raises deeper concerns about the empirical status of cognitive neuroscience, not for understanding the mind, but for discovering fundamental properties of the brain: Are fMRI findings reproducible? To examine this issue, Dr. Barbey will present the results of a large-scale reproducibility project that investigates the stability of fMRI findings as a function of sample size across 4 task-related fMRI. The results demonstrate that replicability for typical fMRI sample sizes is remarkably low (with more than 50 percent of the variance unexplained). Dr. Barbey will discuss why, rather than undermine the validity of fMRI methods, this finding motivates the need to increase sample size and further emphasizes the priority of replication, transparency, and open access in the psychological and brain sciences.

Aron Barbey, Ph.D.

Aron Barbey, Ph.D.

Aron K. Barbey received a Ph.D. in Psychology from Emory University in 2007 and completed a research fellowship in Cognitive Neuroscience at the National Institutes of Health in 2011. Dr. Barbey has led several of the largest and most comprehensive human lesion studies of high-level cognitive functions. He has received multiple early career academic achievement awards and won more than $10 million in private and federal research grants as PI since joining the University of Illinois in 2011. His research is supported by the White House BRAIN Initiative, the research division of the United States Director of National Intelligence (IARPA), the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and Abbott Nutrition. Dr. Barbey serves on the editorial board of multiple journals, including Neuroimage, Intelligence, Thinking & Reasoning, and Trends in Neuroscience and Education.

Additional details

This is a free event. The host is Read Montague, Ph.D.. For more information, please call 540-526-2006, or send an e-mail.

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