Does MRI mapping represent the brain structure one-to-one?

We tend to think that MRI brain mapping simply represents the brain structure. “It’s a substantially more complex relation, and it’s never one-to-one representation”, explains dr Chen Song, the first author of “Linking human behaviour to brain structure: further challenges and possible solutions”. The paper has just been published in “Nature Review Neuroscience”.

Can we directly link human behaviour to brain structure? To answer this question, scientists use MRI data to explain what happens in the brain when engaged in a particular activity. But the MRI scan is rather an intermediary than a pure representation. The outcome, an image of the brain structure, results from mixed factors. Thus the gap between the MRI signal and the underlying brain structure poses a challenge to brain structure–behaviour mapping. Commenting on a review by Genon and colleagues, COST Action 18106 participants Chen Song, Kristian Sandberg, Renate Rutiku and Ryota Kanai point out possible solutions.

Particularly two methodological developments appear promising: advanced multidimensional MRI techniques and advanced multimodal statistical approaches.

The first technique enables the acquisition of multiple structural MRI signals, with each signal reflecting a different weighted sum of structural components. The latter requires adopting multivariate and machine-learning approaches. Combined, they might help reduce pre-assumptions about the brain structure and provide opportunities to understand better how human behaviour emerges from human brain structure.

Learn more here: Song, C., Sandberg, K., Rutiku, R., & Kanai, R. (2022). Linking human behaviour to brain structure: further challenges and possible solutions. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 23(8), 517-518.

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