Cognitive neuroscience has increasingly used non-invasive functional brain imaging, finding practical applications with real-world consequences. Yet, these approaches are fraught with interpretive difficulties. This lecture will highlight some common and troublesome problems in how researchers draw conclusions from their results, using examples from the neuroscience of pain, threat detection and body defence.
I will suggest that the dominant view that the brain responses caused by painful stimuli can be used to infer that an individual is in pain, or to build models of where and how painful percepts are generated in the brain, is incorrect. Instead, the largest part of these brain responses reflect a basic mechanism through which the brain detects and purposefully reacts to behaviourally-relevant sensory events, regardless of their perceptual quality.