ESI Lecture by by Moritz Grosse-Wentrup

Wednesday, July 6, 2016, 14:00-15:30
Lecture Hall, ESI
Moritz Grosse-Wentrup (Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems)
Pascal Fries

Causal Inference in Cognitive Neuroimaging

Neuroimaging techniques enable us to establish associations between brain activity and cognitive functions. Associations do not inform us, however, about the causal mechanisms that govern how brain functions give rise to cognitive processes. To advance our understanding of the brain, it is essential to move beyond associational studies and identify the causal mechanisms that form the basis of cognition. In this talk, I investigate which causal statements are warranted and which ones are not supported by neuroimaging experiments. I argue that in order to decide this question it is necessary to distinguish between encoding- and decoding models as well as between stimulus- and response-based experimental paradigms. I then present a set of statistical conditions that is, under some technical assumptions, sufficient (but not necessary) to establish that a brain process is a cause of a behavioural response, even in the presence of latent confounders. I discuss how to test these conditions on empirical data and demonstrate the viability of this approach on EEG data recorded during a neurofeedback study.