Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Trends in Cognitive, Computational, and Systems Neuroscience 2015

What are the Hot Topics in cognitive neuroscience? We could ask these people, or we could take a more populist approach by looking at conference abstracts. I consulted the program for the recent Cognitive Neuroscience Society meeting (CNS 2015) and made a word cloud using Wordle.1 For comparison, we'll examine the program for the most recent Computational and Systems Neuroscience meeting (Cosyne 2015).

CNS is all about memory, people, and cognitive processing.

Cosyne is about neurons, models, and neural activity.

Word cloud for the 2015 CNS Program

Word cloud for the 2015 Cosyne Program

Cosyne is also about network dynamics, information, and learning.

On the other hand, CNS relies heavily on tasks, studies, and results.

Both Wordles were constructed from poster titles and abstracts. The Coysne cloud incorporated the titles of talks, and the CNS cloud included titles and abstracts for symposia.1

What if we only used the abstract titles? Would that provide a more accurate view of the Hot Topics? Since I already had access to a file with the 2014 CNS abstract titles, I started with that.

Word cloud for CNS 2014 (abstract titles only)

“Memory” is even more dominant now. “Neural” 2 is brought to the fore, accompanied by “processing” and her younger sibling, “correlates”. Those competitors for memory — “attention”, “language”, “emotional”, et al. — are a wee bit more assertive. {The “visual” bully stays boss of the senses, as usual.} And all those “participants” have faded into the background, relegated to the methods.

So cognitive neuroscience isn't people after all...

Finally we have the abstract titles from last year's Organization for Human Brain Mapping meeting3 which, despite the society's name, isn't about people either (although humans and their diseases do play a dramatic role). Instead, “connectivity” is king!

Word cloud for OHBM 2014 (abstract titles only)

In a real stunner for a methods-driven conference on human brain mapping, “ brain” and “fmri” were key terms, and functional connectivity the key concept.

These Wordles were inspired by the tweets of ‏@CousinAmygdala, who made some lovely word clouds after the first NIH BRAIN Initiative Awards were announced (see also Neuroecology).

Not CNS-friendly, I'm afraid...


1 For the Wordle word clouds, I didn't include ads or indices, and edited out common affiliation words like "University". I set all words to appear in lower case to collapse occurrences of words like "Neural" and "neural".

2 Although what counts as “neural” here differs (for the most part) from what the word means elsewhere (e.g., the BOLD signal vs. direct physiological recordings from neurons).

3 This required a bit of editing to extract the poster titles. The final document wasn't as pristine as the 2014 CNS text, but major place names (i.e., affiliations) were removed.

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