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How do neural processes give rise to cognition? Simultaneously predicting brain and behavior with a dynamic model of visual working memory

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There is consensus that activation within distributed functional brain networks underlies human thought. The impact of this consensus is limited, however, by a gap that exists between data-driven correlational analyses that specify where functional brain activity is localized using fMRI, and neural process accounts that specify how neural activity unfolds through time to give rise to behavior. Here, we show how an integrative cognitive neuroscience approach may bridge this gap. In an exemplary study of visual working memory, we use multi-level Bayesian statistics to demonstrate that a neural dynamic model simultaneously explains behavioral data and predicts localized patterns of brain activity, outperforming standard analytic approaches to fMRI. The model explains performance on both correct trials and incorrect trials where errors in change detection emerge from neural fluctuations amplified by neural interaction. Critically, predictions of the model run counter to cognitive theories of the origin of errors in change detection. Results reveal neural patterns predicted by the model within regions of the dorsal attention network that have been the focus of much debate. The model-based analysis suggests that key areas in the dorsal attention network such as the intraparietal sulcus play a central role in change detection rather than working memory maintenance, counter to previous interpretations of fMRI studies. More generally, the integrative cognitive neuroscience approach used here establishes a framework for directly testing theories of cognitive and brain function using the combined power of behavioral and fMRI data.

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Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Review
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Sep 2020
Peer-reviewedYes

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