Mixtures and Psychological Inference with Resting State fMRI

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 73 (3):583-611 (2022)
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In this essay, we examine the use of resting state fMRI data for psychological inferences. We argue that resting state studies hold the paired promises of discovering novel functional brain networks, and of avoiding some of the limitations of task-based fMRI. However, we argue that the very features of experimental design that enable resting state fMRI to support exploratory science also generate a novel confound. We argue that seemingly key features of resting state functional connectivity networks may be artefacts resulting from sampling a ‘mixture distribution’ of diverse brain networks active at different times during the scan. We explore the consequences of this ‘mixture view’ for attempts to theorize about the cognitive or psychological functions of resting state networks, as well as the value of exploratory experiments.



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David Danks
University of California, San Diego

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