The success of systems neuroscience depends on the ability to forge quantitative links between neural activity and behavior. Traditionally, this process has benefited from the rigorous development and testing of hypotheses using tools derived from classical psychophysics and computational motor control. As our capacity for measuring neural activity improves, accompanied by powerful new analysis strategies, it seems prudent to remember what these traditional approaches have to offer. Here I present a perspective on the merits of principled task design and tight behavioral control, along with some words of caution about interpretation in unguided, large-scale neural recording studies. I argue that a judicious combination of new and old approaches is the best way to advance our understanding of higher brain function in health and disease.
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