Decoding semantic representations in mind and brain

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A key goal for cognitive neuroscience is to understand the neurocognitive systems that support semantic memory. Recent multivariate analyses of neuroimaging data have contributed greatly to this effort, but the rapid development of these novel approaches has made it difficult to track the diversity of findings and to understand how and why they sometimes lead to contradictory conclusions. We address this challenge by reviewing cognitive theories of semantic representation and their neural instantiation. We then consider contemporary approaches to neural decoding and assess which types of representation each can possibly detect. The analysis suggests why the results are heterogeneous and identifies crucial links between cognitive theory, data collection, and analysis that can help to better connect neuroimaging to mechanistic theories of semantic cognition.

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Trends in cognitive sciences

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