Electrophysiological measures of cognition in biological psychiatry

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Publication Details

Subtitle: Some cautionary notes
Author list: Barceló F
Publisher: Taylor & Francis: STM, Behavioural Science and Public Health Titles
Publication year: 1997
Volume number: 92
Issue number: 3-4
Start page: 219
End page: 240
Number of pages: 22
ISSN: 0020-7454
Languages: English-Great Britain (EN-GB)


Research into the electrophysiological correlates of mental illness is
currently expanding, largely because of the availability of relatively
inexpensive and powerful computers. However, improvements in technology
do not always lead to enhanced methodological procedures; thus, there
are concerns over the proper interpretation of the results of these
investigations. Our argument is that electroencephalogrgaphic (EEG)
research into psychopathology of psychiatric diseases should adopt a
cognitivist model of mental dysfunction rathr than a neurologist model
of brain disease. Cognitive science has significant potential as an
integrative framework for theorizing and researching psychiatric
disorders and their treatment. Models of human cognitive functioning
have rather special and unique features; these will make their impact
upon the nature of both the analysis and interpretation of EEG data. The
adoption of a sound model of brain function has implications for the
methods to be used at different successive stags of the research
process. We address a number of methodological requirements pertaining
to: the recording and analysis of EEG signals, the laboratory context,
the nature of the tasks, and the attribution of obtained effects.
However, there are grounds for great caution. Even if the mapping of
electrical changes in brain activity leads to a good approximation of
the temporal and spatial dynamics of higher brain function, exploitation
of such information presupposes a deeper understanding of both human
cognition and the physiological basis of the EEG than is often displayed
in the literature. To demonstrate this fundamental point, we draw a
number of comparisons between traditional neurological approaches to
brain assessment and the contemporary cognitive pyschophysiology.


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