Can cognitive effort be measured?

Elegant . Mixed media

My central research question for our December 2016 Working Group Meeting is, Can cognitive effort be measured?

There is growing evidence that fluctuations in brain activity may exhibit scale-free (“fractal”) dynamics. Scale-free signals follow a spectral-power curve of the form P(f ) ∝ f−β, where spectral power decreases in a power-law fashion with increasing frequency. In this study, we demonstrated that fractal scaling of BOLD fMRI signal is consistently suppressed for different sources of cognitive effort. Decreases in the Hurst exponent (H), which quantifies scale-free signal, was related to three different sources of cognitive effort/task engagement: 1) task difficulty, 2) task novelty, and 3) aging effects.

These results were consistently observed across multiple datasets and task paradigms. We also demonstrated that estimates of H are robust across a range of time-window sizes. H was also compared to alternative metrics of BOLD variability (SDBOLD) and global connectivity (Gconn), with effort-related decreases in H producing similar decreases in SDBOLD and Gconn.

These results indicate a potential global brain phenomenon that unites research from different fields and indicates that fractal scaling may be a highly sensitive metric for indexing cognitive effort/task engagement.


Marc G. Berman is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and is involved in the Cognition, Social and Integrative Neuroscience programs, and a Scholar with Virtue, Happiness, and the Meaning of Life.

Questions our scholars are asking – part 1 of 2

We’ve distilled our Scholars’ research for this semester into respective questions; tomorrow we’ll post eight more. And in forthcoming posts, we’ll feature in-depth look at each. For now, we thought our readers would enjoy pondering each question. Together, they can read as a kind of meditation on the inter-relatedness of virtue, happiness, and deep meaning in life.

Herbst Wald Panorama im goldenen Sonnenschein
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Can cognitive effort be measured?

~Marc Berman, University of Chicago

 

What good are the humanities?

~ Talbot Brewer, University of Virginia

 

What work does anger do across moralities?

What work ought anger to do in a particular morality?

~ Owen Flanagan, Duke University

 

How can Thomistic notions of of Temperance enlarge and enrich our understanding of that virtue?

~ Jennifer Frey, University of South Carolina

 

What is the role of friendship in human flourishing?

~Michael Gorman, The Catholic University of America

 

Given my circumstances, can I do what befits a human being? 

~Matthias Haase, University of Chicago

 

Can we achieve happiness without an understanding of the ultimate finality of the human soul?

~Reinhard Huetter, Duke Divinity School

 

Can human character experience sudden moral change?

~Angela Knobel, The Catholic University of America

 

How is Aristotle’s meta-virtue of megalopsychia, or magnanimity, useful to us today?

Can immoral people undergo sudden moral conversions?

~Kristján Kristjánsson, Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, University of Birmingham

Days 1-2 Working Group Meeting in Chicago – photos

Our 2nd working group meeting of scholars met June 6-10, 2016 at the University of Chicago in the beautiful Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society. Although the sessions were closed, you can read our scholars’ abstracts for their June Meeting Topics here and see more photos up in our Flickr album for the week.

 

 

Group photo: Working Group Meeting June 2016

Scholars Team June 2016
Click photo to make it larger. Photo by Marc Monaghan

We’re so happy our scholars are here in Chicago! Find out more about our scholars and their work this week in June here, and working group meetings in general, here.

Our scholars and team are:

From left to right, back row: Santiago Mejia, Michael Gorman, Matthias Haase, Jennifer A. Frey, Father Kevin Flannery, Candace Vogler, Katherine Kinzler, Howard Nusbaum, Talbot Brewer, Reinhardt Huetter, Marc G. Berman (not pictured: Tahera Qudbuddin).

Middle row: Christian Kronsted, Jean Porter, Father Thomas Joseph White, Mari Stuart, Nancy Snow, Heather C. Lench, Angela Knobel,  Erik Angner, Dan McAdams, Valerie Wallace, Jaime Hovey.

Front row: Paul Wong, David Shatz, David Carr, Anselm Mueller.