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Int J Psychophysiol. 2014 Jan;91(1):22-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2013.09.003. Epub 2013 Sep 26.

Imaging natural cognition in action.

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Biological Psychology and Neuroergonomics, Technical University Berlin, Germany; Center for Advanced Neurological Engineering, University of California, San Diego, USA. Electronic address:
Human Neuromechanics Laboratory, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA.
Swartz Center for Computational Neuroscience, University of California, San Diego, USA.


The primary function of the human brain is arguably to optimize the results of our motor actions in an ever-changing environment. Our cognitive processes and supporting brain dynamics are inherently coupled both to our environment and to our physical structure and actions. To investigate human cognition in its most natural forms demands imaging of brain activity while participants perform naturally motivated actions and interactions within a full three-dimensional environment. Transient, distributed brain activity patterns supporting spontaneous motor actions, performed in pursuit of naturally motivated goals, may involve any or all parts of cortex and must be precisely timed at a speed faster than the speed of thought and action. Hemodynamic imaging methods give information about brain dynamics on a much slower scale, and established techniques for imaging brain dynamics in all modalities forbid participants from making natural extensive movements so as to avoid intractable movement-related artifacts. To overcome these limitations, we are developing mobile brain/body imaging (MoBI) approaches to study natural human cognition. By synchronizing lightweight, high-density electroencephalographic (EEG) recording with recordings of participant sensory experience, body and eye movements, and other physiological measures, we can apply advanced data analysis techniques to the recorded signal ensemble. This MoBI approach enables the study of human brain dynamics accompanying active human cognition in its most natural forms. Results from our studies have provided new insights into the brain dynamics supporting natural cognition and can extend theories of human cognition and its evolutionary function - to optimize the results of our behavior to meet ever-changing goals, challenges, and opportunities.


EEG; ICA; Mobile brain imaging; Natural cognition

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