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February 2015

Challenges and Opportunities in Linking Brain-Based Biomarkers to Person-Specific Variation in Cognition: Pumping Up the Volume

Author Affiliations
  • 1Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown
  • 2Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston
  • 3Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown
JAMA Neurol. 2015;72(2):149-151. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2014.3832

One of the most basic assumptions of human neuroscience research is that brain alterations form the basis for cognitive differences across people and time. Although foundational work describing the links between cerebral damage and behavioral abnormalities allowed for the emergence of modern neurology, cognitive neuroscience, and neuropsychology, the bulk of research continues to be focused on small-scale studies in specialized populations. The research reported by Gupta and colleagues1 describes an epidemiological approach to brain science that links brain differences to behavioral differences in a large-scale multiracial/ethnic sample. The size and scope of the study was an impressive accomplishment because neuroimaging thousands of individuals is time-consuming, expensive, and fraught with methodological challenges. However, such research offers an opportunity to consider how differences in multiple markers of brain structure or function may be associated with variations in human cognition.