Cognitive Neuroscience in Information Systems Research

Cognitive Neuroscience in Information Systems Research

Yeli Zhao (Chinese University of Petroleum–Beijing, China) and Keng Siau (City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5478-3.ch009
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This paper reviews cognitive neuroscience and several neurophysiological tools (e.g., fMRI, PET, EEG, MEG, and eye tracking). The strengths and weaknesses of such tools for information systems research are presented. The paper provides examples of existing cognitive neuroscience studies in varies areas, such as neuroeconomics, neuromarketing, and eye tracking. In addition, this paper provides an overview of brain areas that response to various mental processes, and discusses the localization and functionality of each brain area. Because of the popularity of eye-tracking research in information systems, measurements and metrics related and derived from eye-tracking technique (e.g., fixation, saccades and scanpath) are described and discussed in this paper. Opportunities for applying cognitive neuroscience techniques to IS research as well as future research directions are also discussed.
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Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system. As a branch of science, neuroscience covers the fields of anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, or molecular biology of nerves and nervous tissue. Cognitive neuroscience spans over and overlaps many disciplines such as neuroscience, physiological psychology, cognitive psychology, and neuropsychology.

Cognitive neuroscience aims to find the causal relationship between neural circuits in the brain and their corresponding psychological or cognitive functions. The use of neuroimaging functional tools (e.g., fMRI) enables the examination of brain mechanisms and brain activations while the subject performs mental tasks. In order to identify the brain area activated by a specific mental task, researchers have studied different research topics such as consciousness, cognition, memory, attention, emotion, decision making and others.

Basics of Cognitive Neuroscience

The human brain contains about one hundred billion (1011) neurons and 100 trillion (1014) synapses, making it the most complex organ in human body. There are two major brain systems that control and influence our daily behaviors, namely the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and the limbic system. The prefrontal cortex is the brain’s outer layer (cerebral cortex) that covers the front part of the prefrontal lobe. It is associated with higher cognitive processing such as reasoning, planning, problem solving, decision-making, and movements. The limbic system deals mainly with emotions and memories. Specific brain areas and their subdivisions are responsible for different behaviors. Table 1 summarizes the existing understanding of different parts of the brain and their associated cognitive behaviors.

Table 1.
Brain systems and responsive cognitive behaviors
Brain system and FunctionsKey AreaCognitive Behaviors
Prefrontal cortex
- Problem solving
- Personality expression
- Calculation
- Short-term memory
- Moderating acceptable behavior
- Decision making
Dorsal prefrontal cortexAttention, cognition and action (Goldman, Rokic, 1988)
Working memory (Braver et al., 1997; Cohen et al., 1997)
Cognitive effort (Owen et al., 2005; Van der Linden et al., 2003)
Ventral prefrontal cortex Emotion (Price, 1999)
Medial prefrontal cortex Slow-wave sleep (SWS) (Mander et al., 2013)
Limbic System
- Emotion
- Behavior
- Motivation
- Long-term memory
- Olfaction
HypothalamusMotivation, emotion, learning, and memory
Hippocampus  - Spatial memory (Kheirbeck & Hen, 2011)
  - Learning (CurlikShors & Shors, 2012)
Amygdala  - Episodic-autobiographical memory (EAM) networks (Markowitsch & Staniloiu, 2011)
  - Attention and emotional process, social processing

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