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Identification of degenerate neuronal systems based on intersubject variability


Noppeney,  U
Research Group Cognitive Neuroimaging, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Noppeney, U., Penny WD, Price CJ, Flandin, G., & Friston, K. (2006). Identification of degenerate neuronal systems based on intersubject variability. Neuroimage, 30(3), 885-890. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2005.10.010.

Group studies implicitly assume that all subjects activate one common system to sustain a particular cognitive task. Intersubject variability is generally treated as well-behaved and uninteresting noise. However, intersubject variability might result from subjects engaging different degenerate neuronal systems that are each sufficient for task performance. This would produce a multimodal distribution of intersubject variability. We have explored this idea with the help of Gaussian Mixture Modeling and Bayesian model comparison procedures. We illustrate our approach using a crossmodal priming paradigm, in which subjects perform a semantic decision on environmental sounds or their spoken names that were preceded by a semantically congruent or incongruent picture or written name. All subjects consistently activated the superior temporal gyri bilaterally, the left fusiform gyrus and the inferior frontal sulcus. Comparing a One and Two Gaussian Mixture Model of the unexplained residuals provided very strong eviden ce for two groups with distinct activation patterns: 6 subjects exhibited additional activations in the superior temporal sulci bilaterally, the right superior frontal and central sulcus. 11 subjects showed increased activation in the striate and the right inferior parietal cortex. These results suggest that semantic decisions on auditory–visual compound stimuli might be accomplished by two overlapping degenerate neuronal systems.