Using decoding from brain activity to inform the science of behaviour change

The study of physiological and neuro-cognitive signals can make important contributions to our understanding of how people respond to behaviour change interventions. At MCBC, we assess physiological markers such as heart rate and skin conductance, which have been shown to be reliable indices of arousal or emotions. We also use neuroimaging techniques such as electroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to complement traditional research paradigms. We apply state-of-the-art ‘brain decoding’ methods to neural signals to directly predict the decisions, affective responses, and changed attitudes of individuals after exposure to a behaviour change intervention. These techniques can be used to improve our understanding of how we can modify the many behaviours of which individuals are not aware and provide key insights into how sustainable and meaningful behavioural change can be achieved.

Illustrated in the figure below is an example for how patterns of brain activity can be extracted from fMRI and EEG data. fMRI (depicted on the left) data provides very good spatial resolution (i.e., it can be used to find information in the brain). EEG data (depicted on the right) provides excellent temporal resolution (i.e., it can find information in time). These neural patterns can therefore be used to predict various outcomes, such as the choices people will make after a behaviour change intervention.

Brain decoding