Over the past months, we hosted the real-life cognition challenge. The goal of this challenge was to engage the community in studying the brain's behavior in situations with near-real-life complexity. The Center for Behavioral Brain Sciences (CBBS) Magdeburg (funded by the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt) kindly sponsored 5000 Euro to be awarded for the best contributions. From May 27 2014, the day our first data release was published in Scientific Data, anyone could submit their contributions. Submissions had to work with, or contribute, data from complex quasi-natural stimulation, and, in the spirit of open science, any submission had to include all materials necessary to reproduce the results and license them in a way that enables derivative works.

Submission to the challenge finally closed on Nov 1 2014. Following the deadline a jury comprising of Uri Hasson (Princeton University), James Haxby (Dartmouth College), Daniel Margulies (MPI Leipzig), Russ Poldrack (Stanford), Jean-Baptiste Poline (Neurospin), Stefan Pollmann (CBBS, Magdeburg), and Peter Ramadge (Princeton University) evaluated all submissions in terms of novelty of the approach, scientific rigor, and potential impact on future research and application.

Each jury member submitted a vote that named a candidate for first, second, and third place. Votes were then combined into a joint jury decision using Condorcet ranking.

The results show a clear picture regarding the winner of the first prize, while the submissions ranked second and third were only separated by a very narrow margin.

And without further ado, here they are (imaginative drum roll)...

The winners

First prize (3000 Euro award):
Juha Pajula, Jussi Tohka, and Jukka-Pekka Kauppi for their functional brain segmentation based on inter-subject correlation
Second prize (1500 Euro award):
Nikolaas N. Oosterhof with his interactive surface-based visualization of 2nd-order representational similarity
Third prize (500 Euro award):
Lars Marstaller, Jeiran Choupan, and Arend Hintze for their identification of task-related activity using periodic graph properties

Congratulations to all awardees! Please make sure to check out each individual piece of work via their detailed description linked from above. On behalf of anyone involved, I would also like to thank the jury members for their time and effort, as well as the Center for Behavioral Brain Sciences Magdeburg for sponsoring the awards.

While this marks the end of the real-life cognition contest, the underlying challenge of embracing the complexity of the brain's behavior in everyday cognition remains. We are hoping to see more results from groups that started to work with this type of data in the near future. Personally, we will keep enhancing this resource to enable more and more analysis strategies. Please stay tuned for more releases of functional MRI data, stimulus annotations, and behavioral data over the coming weeks and months.

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We have learned a lot while running this contest. Continuing the spirit of our previous post on the impact of announcement strategies, we will summarize our experience, the surprises, and the disappointments in a separate article — a few days from now.