Data-driven extraction of a nested model of human brain function

Taylor Bolt, Jason S. Nomi, B. T.Thomas Yeo, Lucina Q. Uddin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Decades of cognitive neuroscience research have revealed two basic facts regarding task-driven brain activation patterns. First, distinct patterns of activation occur in response to different task demands. Second, a superordinate, dichotomous pattern of activation/deactivation, is common across a variety of task demands. We explore the possibility that a hierarchical model incorporates these two observed brain activation phenomena into a unifying framework. We apply a latent variable approach, exploratory bifactor analysis, to a large set of human (both sexes) brain activation maps (n 108) encompassing cognition, perception, action, and emotion behavioral domains, to determine the potential existence of a nested structure of factors that underlie a variety of commonly observed activation patterns. We find that a general factor, associated with a superordinate brain activation/deactivation pattern, explained the majority of the variance (52.37%) in brain activation patterns. The bifactor analysis also revealed several subfactors that explained an additional 31.02% of variance in brain activation patterns, associated with different manifestations of the superordinate brain activation/deactivation pattern, each emphasizing different contexts in which the task demands occurred. Importantly, this nested factor structure provided better overall fit to the data compared with a non-nested factor structure model. These results point to a domain-general psychological process, representing a “focused awareness” process or “attentional episode” that is variously manifested according to the sensory modality of the stimulus and degree of cognitive processing. This novel model provides the basis for constructing a biologically informed, data-driven taxonomy of psychological processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7263-7277
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number30
StatePublished - Jul 26 2017


  • Bifactor analysis
  • Cognitive ontoloy
  • Task fMRI
  • Task-negative
  • Task-positive
  • Taxonomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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