building a cumulative science of human brain function at CNS

Earlier today, I received an email saying that a symposium I submitted for the next CNS meeting was accepted for inclusion in the program. I’m pretty excited about this; I think the topic of the symposium is a really important one, and this will be a great venue to discuss some of the relevant issues. The symposium is titled “Toward a cumulative science of human brain function”, which is a pretty good description of its contents. Actually, I stole borrowed that title from one of the other speakers (Tor Wager); originally, the symposium was going to be called something like “Cognitive Neuroscience would Suck Less if we all Pooled our Findings Together Instead of Each Doing our own Thing.” In hindsight, I think title theft was the right course of action.  Anyway, with the exception of my own talk, which is assured of being perfectly mediocre, the line-up is really stellar; the other speakers are David Van Essen, Tor Wager (my current post-doc advisor), and Russ Poldrack, all of whom do absolutely fantastic research, and give great talks to boot. Here’s the symposium abstract:

This symposium is designed to promote development of a cumulative science of human brain function that advances knowledge through formal synthesis of the rapidly growing functional neuroimaging literature. The first speaker (Tal Yarkoni) will motivate the need for a cumulative approach by highlighting several limitations of individual studies that can only be overcome by synthesizing the results of multiple studies. The second speaker (David Van Essen) will discuss the basic tools required in order to support formal synthesis of multiple studies, focusing particular attention on SumsDB, a massive database of functional neuroimaging data that can support sophisticated search and visualization queries. The third and fourth speakers will discuss two different approaches to combining and filtering results from multiple studies. Tor Wager will review state-of-the-art approaches to meta-analysis of fMRI data, providing empirical examples of the power of meta-analysis to both validate and disconfirm widely held views of brain organization. Russell Poldrack will discuss a novel taxonomic approach that uses collaboratively annotated meta-data to develop formal ontologies of brain function. Collectively, these four complementary talks will familiarize the audience with (a) the importance of adopting cumulative approaches to functional neuroimaging data; (b) currently available tools for accessing and retrieving information from multiple studies; and (c) state-of-the-art techniques for synthesizing the results of different functional neuroimaging studies into an integrated whole.

Anyway, I think it’ll be a really interesting set of talks, so if you’re at CNS next year, and find yourself hanging around at the convention center for half a day (though why you’d want to do that is beyond me, given that the conference is in MONTREAL), please check it out!

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