How to Characterize the Function of a Brain Region

Trends Cogn Sci. 2018 Apr;22(4):350-364. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2018.01.010. Epub 2018 Feb 28.


Many brain regions have been defined, but a comprehensive formalization of each region's function in relation to human behavior is still lacking. Current knowledge comes from various fields, which have diverse conceptions of 'functions'. We briefly review these fields and outline how the heterogeneity of associations could be harnessed to disclose the computational function of any region. Aggregating activation data from neuroimaging studies allows us to characterize the functional engagement of a region across a range of experimental conditions. Furthermore, large-sample data can disclose covariation between brain region features and ecological behavioral phenotyping. Combining these two approaches opens a new perspective to determine the behavioral associations of a brain region, and hence its function and broader role within large-scale functional networks.

Keywords: BrainMap; Functional specialization; MRI; Neurosynth; brain mapping; data-driven.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Cognitive Neuroscience / methods*
  • Humans