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Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2003 Apr;13(2):174-81.

Tracking cognitive processes with functional MRI mental chronometry.

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Department of Cognitive Neuroscience, Faculty of Psychology, Maastricht University, Postbus 616, 6200 MD, Maastricht, The Netherlands.


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is used widely to determine the spatial layout of brain activation associated with specific cognitive tasks at a spatial scale of millimeters. Recent methodological improvements have made it possible to determine the latency and temporal structure of the activation at a temporal scale of few hundreds of milliseconds. Despite the sluggishness of the hemodynamic response, fMRI can detect a cascade of neural activations - the signature of a sequence of cognitive processes. Decomposing the processing into stages is greatly aided by measuring intermediate responses. By combining event-related fMRI and behavioral measurement in experiment and analysis, trial-by-trial temporal links can be established between cognition and its neural substrate.

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