Beyond the brain-computer interface: Decoding brain activity as a tool to understand neuronal mechanisms subtending cognition and behavior

Front Neurosci. 2022 Sep 8;16:811736. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2022.811736. eCollection 2022.


One of the major challenges in system neurosciences consists in developing techniques for estimating the cognitive information content in brain activity. This has an enormous potential in different domains spanning from clinical applications, cognitive enhancement to a better understanding of the neural bases of cognition. In this context, the inclusion of machine learning techniques to decode different aspects of human cognition and behavior and its use to develop brain-computer interfaces for applications in neuroprosthetics has supported a genuine revolution in the field. However, while these approaches have been shown quite successful for the study of the motor and sensory functions, success is still far from being reached when it comes to covert cognitive functions such as attention, motivation and decision making. While improvement in this field of BCIs is growing fast, a new research focus has emerged from the development of strategies for decoding neural activity. In this review, we aim at exploring how the advanced in decoding of brain activity is becoming a major neuroscience tool moving forward our understanding of brain functions, providing a robust theoretical framework to test predictions on the relationship between brain activity and cognition and behavior.

Keywords: attention; brain decoding; brain–computer interfaces; cognition; electrophysiology; fMRI; machine learning; neurofeedback.

Publication types

  • Review