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Tracking Children’s Mental States While Solving Algebra Equations
Behavioral and function magnetic resonance imagery (fMRI) data were combined to infer the mental states of students as they interacted with an intelligent tutoring system. Sixteen children interacted with a computer tutor for solving linear equations over a six-day period (Days 0–5), with Days 1 and 5 occurring in an fMRI scanner. Hidden Markov model algorithms combined a model of student behavior with multi-voxel imaging pattern data to predict the mental states of students. We separately assessed the algorithms' ability to predict which step in a problem-solving sequence was performed and whether the step was performed correctly. For Day 1, the data patterns of other students were used to predict the mental states of a target student. These predictions were improved on Day 5 by adding information about the target student's behavioral and imaging data from Day 1. Successful tracking of mental states depended on using the combination of a behavioral model and multi-voxel pattern analysis, illustrating the effectiveness of an integrated approach to tracking the cognition of individuals in real time as they perform complex tasks.