Human Cognitive Neuroscience as It Is Taught
Cognitive neuroscience increasingly relies on complex data analysis methods. Researchers in this field come from highly diverse scientific backgrounds, such as psychology, engineering, and medicine. This poses challenges with respect to acquisition of appropriate scientific computing and data analysis skills, as well as communication among researchers with different knowledge and skills sets. Are researchers in cognitive neuroscience adequately equipped to address these challenges? Here, we present evidence from an online survey of methods skills. Respondents (n = 307) mainly comprised students and post-doctoral researchers working in the cognitive neurosciences. Multiple choice questions addressed a variety of basic and fundamental aspects of neuroimaging data analysis, such as signal analysis, linear algebra, and statistics. We analyzed performance with respect to the following factors: undergraduate degree (grouped into Psychology, Methods, and Biology), current researcher status (undergraduate student, PhD student, and post-doctoral researcher), gender, and self-rated expertise levels. Overall accuracy was 72%. Not surprisingly, the Methods group performed best (87%), followed by Biology (73%) and Psychology (66%). Accuracy increased from undergraduate (59%) to PhD (74%) level, but not from PhD to post-doctoral (74%) level. The difference in performance for the Methods vs. non-methods (Psychology/Biology) groups was especially striking for questions related to signal analysis and linear algebra, two areas particularly relevant to neuroimaging research. Self-rated methods expertise was not strongly predictive of performance. The majority of respondents (93%) indicated they would like to receive at least some additional training on the topics covered in this survey. In conclusion, methods skills among junior researchers in cognitive neuroscience can be improved, researchers are aware of this, and there is strong demand for more skills-oriented training opportunities. We hope that this survey will provide an empirical basis for the development of bespoke skills-oriented training programs in cognitive neuroscience institutions. We will provide practical suggestions on how to achieve this.