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Russell Poldrack

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Russell A. Poldrack
Born (1967-05-18) May 18, 1967 (age 57)
Houston, Texas, USA
EducationBaylor University
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Scientific career
FieldsPsychology, Cognitive Neuroscience
InstitutionsHarvard University
University of Texas at Austin
Stanford University
Doctoral advisorNeal J. Cohen
Other academic advisorsJohn Gabrieli
Notable studentsAdriana Galván (postdoc)

Russell "Russ" Alan Poldrack (born 1967) is an American psychologist and neuroscientist. He is a professor of psychology at Stanford University, associate director of Stanford Data Science, member of the Stanford Neuroscience Institute[1] and director of the Stanford Center for Reproducible Neuroscience[2] and the SDS Center for Open and Reproducible Science.

Education and academic career[edit]

Poldrack received his bachelor's degree in psychology from Baylor University in 1989, and his PhD in experimental psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1995, working with Neal J. Cohen. From 1995 to 1999, he was a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University, working with John Gabrieli. Prior to his appointment at Stanford in 2014, he held faculty positions at Harvard Medical School, UCLA, and the University of Texas at Austin.[citation needed]

Scientific career[edit]

Learning and memory[edit]

Poldrack's earliest work studied the brain systems involved in nondeclarative memory. His dissertation work examined the relation between stimulus-specific learning and general skill in a motor skill learning task.[3] His first neuroimaging paper demonstrated changes in brain activity associated with learning of mirror-reading skill, showing that it was associated with a shift from activity in parietal regions toward activation in inferior temporal regions.[4] He later showed that learning of classification learning was associated with a tradeoff between activity in the basal ganglia and medial temporal lobe, and proposed that this reflected a competition between declarative and nondeclarative memory systems in learning.[5] In 2006, his group published work showing that this tradeoff between systems is modulated by dual-task interference[6]

Executive function[edit]

Poldrack's group has also studied the brain systems involved in the inhibition of motor responses. With Adam Aron, Poldrack published two papers that established the role of a circuit involving right prefrontal cortex and the subthalamic nucleus in the inhibition of motor responses.[7][8] They subsequently showed that it was possible to predict individual differences in inhibitory behavior from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data using high-dimensional regression machines.[9]

Decision making[edit]

In 2007, Poldrack and colleagues demonstrated that brain activity during decisions under risk exhibited the pattern of gain- and loss-responsiveness predicted by prospect theory.[10] In subsequent work, they found that risky decisions in the Balloon Analog Risk Task could be predicted from fMRI data, and that these decisions were related to a balance of activity between large-scale brain systems involved in value processing and cognitive control respectively.[11]

Reverse inference[edit]

In 2006, Poldrack published a paper in Trends in Cognitive Sciences that criticized the field for the use of “reverse inference”, in which the presence of activation in a brain region is used to infer the engagement of a specific psychological process.[12] Using a Bayesian analysis, he showed that this form of inference generally provides weak evidence in favor of specific psychological processes. His lab subsequently applied machine learning methods to fMRI data, demonstrating that it is possible to accurately infer mental states in a way that generalizes across individuals.[13]

Poldrack has also been engaged in criticizing the unwarranted use of reverse inference in the media. In 2007 he was part of a group of researchers who published a letter in the New York Times that criticized the use of reverse inference in regard to the US presidential election.[14] In 2010 he led a group of 45 researchers who published a letter in the New York Times criticizing the use of reverse inference in an Op-Editorial on neuromarketing.[15]

Neuroinformatics and data sharing[edit]

Poldrack's group has developed a formal ontology for cognitive neuroscience, known as the Cognitive Atlas.[16] In 2009, Poldrack established the OpenfMRI project[17](later rebranded as OpenNeuro) which openly shares complete raw fMRI datasets. He has collaborated with Tal Yarkoni on the development of Neurosynth,[18] an online meta-analytic tool for the neuroimaging literature. In 2014 he established the Stanford Center for Reproducible Neuroscience,[19] which develops tools for reproducible data analysis including fMRIPREP and MRIQC.

MyConnectome Project[edit]

In 2012, Poldrack undertook a project to collect brain imaging, behavior, and biological data on himself for an extended period of time. Called the MyConnectome Project, this study lasted 18 months, during which Poldrack was scanned with magnetic resonance imaging more than 100 times.[20][21] Analyses of these data showed that brain connectivity changed over this long period of time within specific brain networks,[22] and also showed that the nature of variability over time within an individual is qualitatively different from variability across individuals.[23] This entire dataset was made openly available to the public for further analysis[24]

Science of Behavior Change[edit]

Poldrack is a part of the Science of Behavior Change (SOBC) network.[25] His research uses brain imaging to understand the brain systems supporting decision making, executive control, and behavior change. Poldrack's lab also develops informatics tools to help make sense of the growing body of neuroimaging data (including the OpenNeuro and NeuroVault data sharing projects and the Cognitive Atlas[16] ontology) as well as tools to help improve the reproducibility of neuroimaging research (including the Brain Imaging Data Structure and BIDS-Apps projects).[11][26]

Professional Achievements[edit]

In 2009, Poldrack was elected as Chairperson of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping. He is a founding Co-Editor-in-Chief of Frontiers in Brain Imaging Methods, and has served as a member of editorial boards for Psychological Bulletin, Nature Scientific Data, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Cerebral Cortex, Human Brain Mapping, GigaScience, SCAN (Social, Cognitive, and Affective Neuroscience), Cognitive Science, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, and Neuroimage. He was the chair of the External Advisory Panel of the Human Connectome Project,[27] and member of advisory panels for the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study and the Kavli Human Study[28]

Honors and awards[edit]


  • Poldrack RA, Mumford JA, Nichols TE (2011). Handbook of fMRI data analysis. Cambridge University Press.[32]
  • P. Glimcher, E. Fehr, C. Camerer, & R. Poldrack (Eds.), Handbook of Neuroeconomics. San Diego: Academic Press[33]
  • Russell A. Poldrack (2018). The New Mind Readers: What Neuroimaging Can and Cannot Reveal About Our Thoughts. Princeton University Press.[34]
  • Russell A. Poldrack (2021). Hard to Break: Why Our Brains Make Habits Stick. Princeton University Press.[35]


  1. ^ "Neurosciences Institute".
  2. ^ "Stanford Center for Reproducible Neuroscience".
  3. ^ Poldrack, Russell A.; Selco, Scott L.; Field, Jason E.; Cohen, Neal J. (1999). "The relationship between skill learning and repetition priming: Experimental and computational analyses". Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition. 25 (1): 208–35. doi:10.1037/0278-7393.25.1.208. PMID 9949713.
  4. ^ Poldrack RA, Desmond JE, Glover GH, Gabrieli JD (1998). "The neural basis of visual skill learning: an fMRI study of mirror reading". Cerebral Cortex. 8 (1): 1–10. doi:10.1093/cercor/8.1.1. PMID 9510380.
  5. ^ Poldrack RA, Clark J, Paré-Blagoev EJ, Shohamy D, Creso Moyano J, Myers C, Gluck MA (2001). "Interactive memory systems in the human brain". Nature. 414 (6863): 546–50. doi:10.1038/35107080. PMID 11734855. S2CID 4422569.
  6. ^ Foerde K, Knowlton BJ, Poldrack RA (2006). "Modulation of competing memory systems by distraction". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 103 (31): 11778–83. Bibcode:2006PNAS..10311778F. doi:10.1073/pnas.0602659103. PMC 1544246. PMID 16868087.
  7. ^ Aron AR, Poldrack RA (2006). "Cortical and subcortical contributions to Stop signal response inhibition: role of the subthalamic nucleus". The Journal of Neuroscience. 26 (9): 2424–33. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4682-05.2006. PMC 6793670. PMID 16510720.
  8. ^ Aron AR, Behrens TE, Smith S, Frank MJ, Poldrack RA (2007). "Triangulating a cognitive control network using diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and functional MRI". The Journal of Neuroscience. 27 (14): 3743–52. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0519-07.2007. PMC 6672420. PMID 17409238.
  9. ^ Cohen JR, Asarnow RF, Sabb FW, Bilder RM, Bookheimer SY, Knowlton BJ, Poldrack RA (2010). "Decoding developmental differences and individual variability in response inhibition through predictive analyses across individuals". Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 4: 47. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2010.00047. PMC 2906202. PMID 20661296.
  10. ^ Tom SM, Fox CR, Trepel C, Poldrack RA (2007). "The neural basis of loss aversion in decision-making under risk". Science. 315 (5811): 515–8. Bibcode:2007Sci...315..515T. doi:10.1126/science.1134239. PMID 17255512. S2CID 10102114.
  11. ^ a b Helfinstein SM, Schonberg T, Congdon E, Karlsgodt KH, Mumford JA, Sabb FW, Cannon TD, London ED, Bilder RM, Poldrack RA (2014). "Predicting risky choices from brain activity patterns". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 111 (7): 2470–5. Bibcode:2014PNAS..111.2470H. doi:10.1073/pnas.1321728111. PMC 3932884. PMID 24550270.
  12. ^ Poldrack RA (2006). "Can cognitive processes be inferred from neuroimaging data?" (PDF). Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 10 (2): 59–63. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2005.12.004. PMID 16406760. S2CID 13498984.
  13. ^ Poldrack RA, Halchenko YO, Hanson SJ (2009). "Decoding the large-scale structure of brain function by classifying mental States across individuals". Psychological Science. 20 (11): 1364–72. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02460.x. PMC 2935493. PMID 19883493.
  14. ^ "Opinion | Politics and the Brain". The New York Times. 2007-11-14. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-05-12.
  15. ^ "Opinion | The iPhone and the Brain". The New York Times. 2011-10-04. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-05-12.
  16. ^ a b "Cognitive Atlas".
  17. ^ "OpenfMRI".
  18. ^ "Neurosynth".
  19. ^ "Where science-as-a-service and supercomputing meet". 11 August 2016.
  20. ^ "A Mind in Time".
  21. ^ "The Quantified Brain of a Self-Tracking Neuroscientist".
  22. ^ Poldrack RA, Laumann TO, Koyejo O, Gregory B, Hover A, Chen MY, Gorgolewski KJ, Luci J, Joo SJ, Boyd RL, Hunicke-Smith S, Simpson ZB, Caven T, Sochat V, Shine JM, Gordon E, Snyder AZ, Adeyemo B, Petersen SE, Glahn DC, Reese Mckay D, Curran JE, Göring HH, Carless MA, Blangero J, Dougherty R, Leemans A, Handwerker DA, Frick L, Marcotte EM, Mumford JA (2015). "Long-term neural and physiological phenotyping of a single human". Nature Communications. 6: 8885. Bibcode:2015NatCo...6.8885P. doi:10.1038/ncomms9885. PMC 4682164. PMID 26648521.
  23. ^ Laumann TO, Gordon EM, Adeyemo B, Snyder AZ, Joo SJ, Chen MY, Gilmore AW, McDermott KB, Nelson SM, Dosenbach NU, Schlaggar BL, Mumford JA, Poldrack RA, Petersen SE (2015). "Functional System and Areal Organization of a Highly Sampled Individual Human Brain". Neuron. 87 (3): 657–70. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2015.06.037. PMC 4642864. PMID 26212711.
  24. ^ "Data sharing -".
  25. ^ "Science of Behavior Change Network Directory".
  26. ^ "Science of Behavior Change Research Network".
  27. ^ "External Advisory Panel".
  28. ^ "Advisors on the Scientific Agenda". Kavli HUMAN Project.
  29. ^ "APA Distinguished Scientific Awards for an Early Career Contribution to Psychology". apa.org.
  30. ^ "Wiley Young Investigator Award - Organization for Human Brain Mapping".
  31. ^ "Association for Psychological Science: APS Fellows".
  32. ^ Nichols, Russell A. Poldrack, Jeanette A. Mumford, Thomas E. (2011). Handbook of functional MRI data analysis (Reprinted. ed.). New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 225. ISBN 9780521517669.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  33. ^ al.], edited by Paul W. Glimcher ... [et; Poldrack, Russell Alan (2008). Neuroeconomics : decision making and the brain (1st ed.). London: Academic Press. ISBN 9780123741769. {{cite book}}: |first1= has generic name (help)
  34. ^ Poldrack, Russell (2018). The New Mind Readers: What Neuroimaging Can and Cannot Reveal About Our Thoughts. Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691178615.
  35. ^ Poldrack, Russell (2021). Hard to Break: Why Our Brains Make Habits Stick. Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691194325.