Cognitive Neuroscience

Cognitive Neuroscience Definition

Cognitive neuroscience is a subfield of neuroscience that studies the biological processes that underlie human cognition, especially in regards to the relation between brain structures, activity and cognitive functions . The purpose of cognitive neuroscience is to determine how the brain achieves the functions it performs. Cognitive neuroscience is considered a branch of both psychology and neuroscience because it combines the biological sciences with the behavioral sciences, such as psychiatry and psychology. Technologies which measure brain activity, like functional neuroimaging, can provide insight into behavioral observations when behavioral data is insufficient. Decision-making is an example of a biological process that influences cognition.

Cognitive Neuroscience Diagram depicts the broad sections of the brain that influence cognitive behavior.

Cognitive Neuroscience FAQs

What is Cognitive Neuroscience?

The term cognitive neuroscience refers to a subfield of neuroscience that studies the biological processes that underlie human cognition. This field studies the neural connections within the human brain. The purpose of cognitive neuroscience is to determine how the brain achieves the functions it performs. Cognitive neuroscience is considered a cross-disciplinary field because it combines the biological sciences with the behavioral sciences. Neuroscience research technology, like neuroimaging, can provide insight into specific areas of behavior when behavioral data is insufficient.

Cognitive Neuroscience Example

Examining cognitive neuroscience experiments is helpful to understand cognitive neuroscience at work. A recent prize-winning experiment explored the role of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of satisfaction, in brain function and decision making. Humans need to be able to make decisions that benefit them to survive. When we make a decision that results in a reward, the activity level of dopamine neurons increases—and eventually this response happens even in anticipation of a reward. 

This biological process is why we seek greater and greater rewards, such as promotions or degrees, as a higher number of rewards is linked with a higher chance of survival. Decision-making is an example of a biological process that influences cognitive processes.

Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience

Behavioral neuroscience uncovers how the brain influences behavior by applying neurobiology and neurophysiology to the study of physiology, genetics and developmental mechanisms. As the name suggests, this subfield is the link between neuroscience and behavior. Behavioral neuroscience focuses on nerve cells, neurotransmitters and neural circuits to investigate the biological processes that underlie both normal and abnormal behavior.

One of the major aims of cognitive neuroscience is to identify the deficiencies within neural systems that mark various psychiatry and neurodegenerative disorders. Cognitive neuroscientists tend to have a background in experimental psychology, neurobiology, neurology, physics, and mathematics.

Cognitive Science vs Neuroscience

Cognitive science is the scientific study of thought, learning, and the human mind. It is an interdisciplinary field which combines ideas and methods from neuroscience, neuropsychology, psychology, computer science, linguistics, and philosophy. It is a subfield and draws from the research developments in neuroscience. The broad goal of cognitive science is to characterize the nature of human knowledge – its forms and content – and how that knowledge is used, processed, and acquired. It spans many levels of analysis, from low-level learning and decision mechanisms to high-level logic and planning; from neural circuitry to modular brain organization.

Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system. It developed as a branch of biology but quickly grew into an interdisciplinary field drawing from disciplines such as psychology, computer science, statistics, physics, philosophy, and medicine. The scope of neuroscience has broadened. It now includes different approaches used to study the molecular, developmental, structural, functional, evolutionary, medical, and computational models of the nervous system.

Before the 1980s, interaction between neuroscience and cognitive science was scarce. Interdisciplinary research studies awarded the 2014 Brain Prize, 2014 Nobel Prize, and 2017 Brain Prize helped advance the acceptance of these two fields’ joint contributions to one another.

History of Cognitive Neuroscience

Cognitive neuroscience is an interdisciplinary area of study that has emerged from neuroscience and psychology. There were several stages in these disciplines that changed the way researchers approached their investigations and that led to the field becoming fully established.

Although the task of cognitive neuroscience is to describe how the brain creates the mind, historically it has progressed by investigating how a certain area of the brain supports a given mental faculty.

The phrenologist movement failed to supply a scientific basis for its theories and has since been rejected. The aggregate field view, meaning that all areas of the brain participated in all behavior, was also rejected as a result of brain mapping. Perhaps the first serious attempts to localize mental functions to specific areas in the human brain was by Broca and Wernicke. This was mostly achieved by studying the effects of injuries to different parts of the brain on psychological functions. These studies formed the basis for neuropsychology, one of the central areas of research which began to establish links between behavior and its neural substrates.

Brain mapping began with Hitzig and Fritsch’s experiments published in 1870. These studies formed the research that was further developed through methods such as positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The Nobel Prize of 1906 recognized Golgi and Cajal’s essential work on the neuron doctrine.

Several findings in the 20th century continued to advance the field. Findings like the discovery of ocular dominance columns, recording of single nerve cells in animals, and coordination of eye and head movements were major contributions. Experimental psychology was significant in the foundation of cognitive neuroscience. Findings include the demonstration that some tasks are accomplished via discrete processing stages, the study of attention, and the notion that behavioural data do not provide enough information by themselves to explain mental processes. As a result, some experimental psychologists began to investigate neural bases of behaviour.

A 1967 book by Ulric Neisser, Cognitive Psychology, reported the discussion of a 1956 meeting at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where George A. Miller, Noam Chomsky, and Newell & Simon presented important papers. Around this time, the term “psychology” was falling out of fashion, and researchers were more likely to refer to “cognitive science.” The term cognitive neuroscience itself was coined by Michael Gazzaniga and cognitive psychologist George Armitage Miller while sharing a taxi in 1976.

Cognitive neuroscience began to integrate the newly laid theoretical ground in cognitive science, that emerged between the 1950s and 1960s, with approaches in experimental psychology, neuropsychology and neuroscience. Neuroscience was formally recognized as a unified discipline in 1971. In the 20th century, new technologies evolved that are now the mainstay of the methodology of cognitive neuroscience, including EEG (human EEG 1920), MEG (1968), TMS (1985) and fMRI (1991).

Recently the focus of research has expanded from the localization of brain area(s) for specific functions in the adult brain using a single technology. Studies explore the interactions between different brain areas, using multiple technologies and approaches to understand brain functions, and using computational approaches. Advances in non-invasive functional neuroimaging and associated data analysis methods have made it possible to use highly naturalistic stimuli and tasks in cognitive neuroscience studies.

What is Cognitive Neuroscience Psychology?

Cognitive neuroscience is the study of how the brain enables the mind. Brain science explores how individual neurons operate and communicate to form complex neuronal architectures that comprise the human brain. Cognitive science uses the experimental methods of cognitive psychology and artificial intelligence to create and test models of higher-level cognition such as thought and language. Cognitive neuroscience bridges these two domains. It maps higher-level cognitive functions to known brain architectures and known modes of neuronal processing. One research focus sees researchers using cognitive psychology tasks to better understand patients with brain damage, and how the healthy brain changes as we age.

Does EMOTIV Offer Products for Cognitive Neuroscience?

EMOTIV offers a number of products for cognitive neuroscientists, consumer research, cognitive performance, neuroimaging and brain-controlled technology applications. EMOTIV’s neuroscience solutions include computational cognitive neuroscience software, BCI software and EEG hardware technology.

EmotivPro is a software solution for cognitive neuroscience and education, enabling users to analyze EEG data, display the EEG recordings in real-time and mark events. The EmotivBCI is a brain-computer interface software that can be used to directly implement a BCI within a computer. EMOTIV’s additional tools include brain visualization software BrainViz and brain performance tracking software MyEmotiv.

EMOTIV’s products for cognitive neuroscience measuring are considered the most cost-effective and credible mobile and wireless EEG headsets on the market. For cognitive neuroscience and commercial use, the award-winning EMOTIV EPOC+ headset provides professional-grade brain data. The EMOTIV EPOC FLEX cap offers high density coverage and moveable electroencephalogram sensors optimal for computational cognitive neuroscience and detecting activity in neural systems.

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