Neural imaging to track mental states while using an intelligent tutoring system

Hemodynamic measures of brain activity can be used to interpret a student's mental state when they are interacting with an intelligent tutoring system. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data were collected while students worked with a tutoring system that taught an algebra isomorph. A cognitive model predicted the distribution of solution times from measures of problem complexity. Separately, a linear discriminant analysis used fMRI data to predict whether or not students were engaged in problem solving. A hidden Markov algorithm merged these two sources of information to predict the mental states of students during problem-solving episodes. The algorithm was trained on data from 1 day of interaction and tested with data from a later day. In terms of predicting what state a student was in during a 2-s period, the algorithm achieved 87% accuracy on the training data and 83% accuracy on the test data. The results illustrate the importance of integrating the bottom-up information from imaging data with the top-down information from a cognitive model.