Representational similarity analysis (RSA) is a rapidly developing multivariate platform to investigate the structure of neural activities. Similarity/dissimilarity is the core concept of RSA, realized by the construction of a representational dissimilarity matrix, that addresses the closeness/distance for each pair of research elements (e.g., one minus the correlation between the brain responses to 2 different stimuli) and in turn, constitutes a multivariate pattern as its analytic foundation. This approach is also welcome for its sensitivity in detecting subtle differences of distributed experimental effects in the brain. Importantly, RSA is not only an experimental tool but a promising data-analytical framework that can integrate cross-modal imaging signals, explore brain-behavior link, and verify computational models according to measured neural activities. RSA substantiates its integrative power by relating similarity structure in one domain (e.g., stimulus features) to that in another domain (e.g., neural activities). This review summarizes dissimilarity/similarity definition of RSA, introduces how to derive the dissimilarity structure in neural response pattern, and carry out connectivity analysis based on RSA platform. Several recent advances are highlighted, such as the extraction of across-subjects regularity, cross-validation of brain reactivity in human beings and monkeys, the incorporation of computational models and behavioral profiles into RSA. Voxel receptor field modeling, another promising multivariate tool of pattern elucidation, is presented and compared. The application of RSA is expected to surge and extend in many fields of neuroscience, computation, psychology and medicine. We also discuss the limitations of RSA and some critical questions that need to be addressed in future research.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank Dr. Carl M. Gaspar, Shao Hanyu and Pan Liping for helpful discussions and comments on a draft of this manuscript. This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31070905) and National Social Science Foundation of China (11AZD119).
- condition-rich experiments
- pattern information
- representational similarity analysis