Functional Mapping of Cognitive Functions Across Human Cerebral Cortex


March 10, 2014 - 12:00pm
William James Hall 765
About the Speaker
Jack Gallant (UC Berkeley)

Cognitive functions such as vision, language, memory and decision making are mediated by many distinct brain areas distributed across the cerebral cortex. Better measurement of these cortical maps could have a profound effect on our understanding of cognition, and of the relationships between neurobiology and behavior. Over the past 10 years my laboratory has used functional MRI to measure human brain activity while participants watch movies or listen to stories. We then use a computational modeling approach to recover detailed cortical maps of visual and linguistic information from these data. Our studies reveal that cortical maps of visual and linguistic information are much richer, denser and more numerous than previously believed, but that they are organized similarly in the brains of different individuals. Although the neuronal wiring that gives rise to these maps changes only slowly, top-down influences such as category-based attention can dramatically alter the information represented in these maps on a very short time scale. Thus, our data are consistent with the view that human brain is a complex, dynamic network of hundreds of distinct functional areas, and that any specific cognitive task is likely to recruit areas distributed broadly across the cerebral cortex.