Understanding relevance: an fMRI study

Yashar Moshfeghi, Luisa R. Pinto, Frank E. Pollick, Joemon M. Jose

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution book

33 Citations (Scopus)


Relevance is one of the key concepts in Information Retrieval (IR). A huge body of research exists that attempts to understand this concept so as to operationalize it for IR systems. Despite advances in the past few decades, answering the question “How does relevance happen?” is still a big challenge. In this paper, we investigate the connection between relevance and brain activity. Using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), we measured the brain activity of eighteen participants while they performed four topical relevance assessment tasks on relevant and non-relevant images. The results of this experiment revealed three brain regions in the frontal, parietal and temporal cortex where brain activity differed between processing relevant and non-relevant documents. This is an important step in unravelling the nature of relevance and therefore better utilising it for effective retrieval.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdvances in Information Retrieval
Subtitle of host publication35th European Conference on IR Research, ECIR 2013, Moscow, Russia, March 24-27, 2013. Proceedings
Place of PublicationBerlin
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)9783642369728, 9783642369735
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2013
Event35th European conference on IR Research - Moscow, Russian Federation
Duration: 24 Mar 201327 Mar 2013

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science


Conference35th European conference on IR Research
Abbreviated titleECIR 2013
Country/TerritoryRussian Federation


  • Information retrieval
  • relevance
  • functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
  • brain activity
  • relevance assessment


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  • Best Paper Award

    Moshfeghi, Yashar (Recipient), 24 Mar 2013

    Prize: Prize (including medals and awards)

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