Reference Work Entry

Neuroscience in the 21st Century

pp 2727-2753


Cognitive Functions as Revealed by Imaging of the Human Brain

  • Rene San MartinAffiliated withCenter for Cognitive Neuroscience, Duke University
  • , Scott A. HuettelAffiliated withCenter for Cognitive Neuroscience, Duke University Email author 


Functional neuroimaging techniques allow neuroscientists to map the processes of perception, cognition, memory, and action onto the human brain. The core techniques used in current research either measure neuronal activity directly (e.g., electroencephalography, magnetoencephalography) or measure aspects of brain metabolism that provide indirect measures of neuronal activity (e.g., functional magnetic resonance imaging, positron emission tomography). Each technique presents a distinct set of strengths and limitations; some have superior ability to localize processing within the brain (spatial resolution), while others have better capability for evaluating the timing of processing (temporal resolution). As these techniques have matured, they have been applied to an increasingly diverse range of research questions. This chapter highlights some key advances associated with functional neuroimaging, with a focus on research that studies higher cognition and decision making. The chapter ends with speculations about the future directions for functional neuroimaging research, including the roles these techniques will play within neuroscience.


Blood-oxygenation-level-dependent (BOLD) Diffuse optical imaging (DOI) Functional brain imaging Assessing variability Characteristics Computational models Event-related potentials Functional resolution History Integration across techniques Intertemporal choice Measurement and manipulation techniques Modeling cognitive processes Neural organization model Positron emission tomography Spatial resolution Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) Magnetoencephalographic signals (MEGs) Positron emission tomography