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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

April 2012, Vol. 24, No. 4, Pages 775-777
(doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_00193)
© 2012 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Why the Assessment of Causality in Brain–Behavior Relations Requires Brain Stimulation
Article PDF (95.69 KB)

A central aim in cognitive neuroscience is to explain how neural activity gives rise to perception and behavior; the causal link of paramount interest is thus from brain to behavior. Functional neuroimaging studies, however, tend to provide information in the opposite direction by informing us how manipulation of behavior may affect neural activity. Although this may provide valuable insights into neuronal properties, one cannot use such evidence to make inferences about the behavioral significance of the observed activations; if A causes B, it does not necessarily follow that B causes A. In contrast, brain stimulation techniques enable us to directly modulate brain activity as the source of behavior and thus establish causal links.