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Department of Psychology


Publication details for Professor Charles Fernyhough

Kühn, S., Fernyhough, C., Alderson-Day, B. & Hurlburt, R. T. (2014). Inner experience in the scanner: Can high fidelity apprehensions of inner experience be integrated with fMRI? Frontiers in Psychology 5: 1393.

Author(s) from Durham


To provide full accounts of human experience and behavior, research in cognitive neuroscience must be linked to inner experience, but introspective reports of inner experience have often been found to be unreliable. The present case study aimed at providing proof of principle that introspection using one method, descriptive experience sampling (DES), can be reliably integrated with fMRI. A participant was trained in the DES method, followed by nine sessions of sampling within an MRI scanner. During moments where the DES interview revealed ongoing inner speaking, fMRI data reliably showed activation in classic speech processing areas including left inferior frontal gyrus. Further, the fMRI data validated the participant’s DES observations of the experiential distinction between inner speaking and innerly hearing her own voice. These results highlight the precision and validity of the DES method as a technique of exploring inner experience and the utility of combining such methods with fMRI.