Machine learning and pattern recognition algorithms have in the past years developed to become a working horse in brain imaging and the computational neurosciences, as they are instrumental for mining vast amounts of neural data of ever increasing measurement precision and detecting minuscule signals from an overwhelming noise floor. They provide the means to decode and characterize task relevant brain states and to distinguish them from non-informative brain signals. While undoubtedly this machinery has helped to gain novel biological insights, it also holds the danger of potential unintentional abuse. Ideally machine learning techniques should be usable for any non-expert, however, unfortunately they are typically not. Overfitting and other pitfalls may occur and lead to spurious and nonsensical interpretation. The goal of this review is therefore to provide an accessible and clear introduction to the strengths and also the inherent dangers of machine learning usage in the neurosciences.
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