Neuropsychology and Cognitive Neuroscience in the fMRI Era: A Recapitulation of Localizationist and Connectionist Views

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Abstract

Objective: We highlight the past 25 years of cognitive neuroscience and neuropsychology, focusing on the impact to the field of the introduction in 1992 of functional MRI (fMRI). Method: We reviewed the past 25 years of literature in cognitive neuroscience and neuropsychology, focusing on the relation and interplay of fMRI studies and studies utilizing the “lesion method” in human participants with focal brain damage. Results: Our review highlights the state of localist/connectionist research debates in cognitive neuroscience and neuropsychology circa 1992, and details how the introduction of fMRI into the field at that time catalyzed a new wave of efforts to map complex human behavior to specific brain regions. This, in turn, eventually evolved into many studies that focused on networks and connections between brain areas, culminating in recent years with large-scale investigations such as the Human Connectome Project. Conclusions: We argue that throughout the past 25 years, neuropsychology—and more precisely, the “lesion method” in humans—has continued to play a critical role in arbitrating conclusions and theories derived from inferred patterns of local brain activity or wide-spread connectivity from functional imaging approaches. We conclude by highlighting the future for neuropsychology in the context of an increasingly complex methodological armamentarium.

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