New Directions on
Decoding Mental States from fMRI Data

NIPS 06 workshops, December 8, Whistler, Canada

Call for Abstracts

Important Dates


In the past five years machine learning classifiers have met great interest in the field of cognitive neuroscience for the purpose of decoding mental states given observed fMRI data. This work has received considerable attention because it is seen as a way to overcome limitations of more conventional fMRI analysis methods. Whereas conventional fMRI research is focused on spatially localizing cognitive modules, decoding-based research allows for the first time the study of the neural encoding of specific mental contents in the human brain.

The recent progress has also raised a number of fundamental questions about the practice of using classifiers for decoding, the interpretation of results and their implications for theories of cognitive neuroscience. This workshop has the following goals:

  1. To give an overview of decoding mental states from fMRI
  2. To present cutting edge research and to address the fundamental practical challenges.
  3. To provide a venue for discussion of the broader questions that may result in an agenda for the field.


We aim to have several cognitive neuroscience researchers give overview talks and introduce members of the NIPS community to the field and challenges from their perspective.

We will also leave ample space for submitted presentations and discussion. At a high level, we are interested in how decoding can help model-building in cognitive neuroscience and, ultimately, help develop theories of neural representation that explain the decoding-identified structure in the fMRI data. At a more technical level, we are considering specific issues such as:

We especially believe fMRI decoding to be of high interest also to machine learning experts. Given the number and type of specific open questions, this is more than just another application domain and thus there is a requirement for machine learning researchers to come up with new methods and creative applications. This workshop is also designed to facilitate their entry into this field and put them in contact with cognitive neuroscientists receptive to their computational expertise and creativity.


We invite abstracts addressing any of the questions above or other related issues. We welcome presentations of completed work or work-in-progress, as well as papers discussing potential research directions and surveys of recent developments.

If you would like to present at the workshop, please send an abstract at most 2 pages long (NIPS format (, excluding citations, PDF preferred) to as soon as possible, and no later than November 2, 2006.
We will select presentations and have a final program posted by early November.