Toward Coordinate-based Cognition Dictionaries: A BrainMap and Neurosynth Demo

Qiu Yu Lu, Jonathan M. Towne, Matthew Lock, Chao Jiang, Zhi Xiang Cheng, Mohamad Habes, Xi Nian Zuo, Yu Feng Zang

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


Characterizing the functional involvement of specific brain regions has long been a central challenge in cognitive neuroscience. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) techniques have offered solutions for mapping functional neural networks. The complex nature of structure-function correspondence makes an elaborate task design difficult to fully capture higher-order cognitive function. Other research practices, such as brain-behavior association or between-group comparisons, are thus widely used to explore cognitive correlations with specific brain regions. However, interpreting the results derived from a specific brain region with their underlying cognitive functions has been too general in publications. Here, we use two examples, i.e., a brain-intelligence correlation study and a depression-control comparison meta-study, to demonstrate use of two neuroimaging online databases, BrainMap and Neurosynth. One key utility of the two databases is collecting results from massive cognitive task-based fMRI (tb-fMRI) studies, i.e., coordinates in standard brain space. Just like looking up a “coordinate-based cognition dictionary”, researchers can receive a plethora of related tb-fMRI activation information characterized by cognitive domains, specific cognitive functions, cognitive task paradigms, and related publications. Surprisingly, we found that only less than 1% of brain-behavior association or between-group comparison studies have utilized this dictionary approach. We encourage the community to further engage with the existing databases for specific and comprehensive interpretation of neuroimaging as well as guidance of future experimental tb-fMRI design.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-118
Number of pages10
StatePublished - Jun 15 2022


  • BrainMap
  • Neurosynth
  • coordinate-based cognition dictionary
  • depression
  • intelligence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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