Locality and low-dimensions in the prediction of natural experience from fMRI

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 20 (NIPS 2007)

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Francois Meyer, Greg Stephens


Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) provides an unprecedented window into the complex functioning of the human brain, typically detailing the activity of thousands of voxels during hundreds of sequential time points. Unfortunately, the interpretation of fMRI is complicated due both to the relatively unknown connection between the hemodynamic response and neural activity and the unknown spatiotemporal characteristics of the cognitive patterns themselves. Here, we use data from the Experience Based Cognition competition to compare global and local methods of prediction applying both linear and nonlinear techniques of dimensionality reduction. We build global low dimensional representations of an fMRI dataset, using linear and nonlinear methods. We learn a set of time series that are implicit functions of the fMRI data, and predict the values of these times series in the future from the knowledge of the fMRI data only. We find effective, low-dimensional models based on the principal components of cognitive activity in classically-defined anatomical regions, the Brodmann Areas. Furthermore for some of the stimuli, the top predictive regions were stable across subjects and episodes, including Wernickeƕs area for verbal instructions, visual cortex for facial and body features, and visual-temporal regions (Brodmann Area 7) for velocity. These interpretations and the relative simplicity of our approach provide a transparent and conceptual basis upon which to build more sophisticated techniques for fMRI decoding. To our knowledge, this is the first time that classical areas have been used in fMRI for an effective prediction of complex natural experience.