Functional brain networks underlying detection and integration of disconfirmatory evidence

Neuroimage. 2015 May 15;112:138-151. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.02.043. Epub 2015 Feb 28.


Processing evidence that disconfirms a prior interpretation is a fundamental aspect of belief revision, and has clear social and clinical relevance. This complex cognitive process requires (at minimum) an alerting stage and an integration stage, and in the current functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, we used multivariate analysis methodology on two datasets in an attempt to separate these sequentially-activated cognitive stages and link them to distinct functional brain networks. Thirty-nine healthy participants completed one of two versions of an evidence integration experiment involving rating two consecutive animal images, both of which consisted of two intact images of animal faces morphed together at different ratios (e.g., 70/30 bird/dolphin followed by 10/90 bird/dolphin). The two versions of the experiment differed primarily in terms of stimulus presentation and timing, which facilitated functional interpretation of brain networks based on differences in the hemodynamic response shapes between versions. The data were analyzed using constrained principal component analysis for fMRI (fMRI-CPCA), which allows distinct, simultaneously active task-based networks to be separated, and these were interpreted using both temporal (task-based hemodynamic response shapes) and spatial (dominant brain regions) information. Three networks showed increased activity during integration of disconfirmatory relative to confirmatory evidence: (1) a network involved in alerting to the requirement to revise an interpretation, identified as the salience network (dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and bilateral insula); (2) a sensorimotor response-related network (pre- and post-central gyri, supplementary motor area, and thalamus); and (3) an integration network involving rostral prefrontal, orbitofrontal and posterior parietal cortex. These three networks were staggered in their peak activity (alerting, responding, then integrating), but at certain time points (e.g., 17s after trial onset) the hemodynamic responses associated with all three networks were simultaneously active. These findings highlight distinct cognitive processes and corresponding functional brain networks underlying stages of disconfirmatory evidence integration, and demonstrate the power of multivariate and multi-experiment methodology in cognitive neuroscience.

Keywords: Disconfirmatory evidence integration; Functional connectivity; fMRI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Visual Perception / physiology
  • Young Adult