Frontiers in Physiology, 10:509 (2019)
Standard neuroimaging techniques provide non-invasive access not only to human brain anatomy but also to its physiology. The activity recorded with these techniques is generally called functional imaging, but what is observed per se is an instance of dynamics, from which functional brain activity should be extracted. Distinguishing between bare dynamics and genuine function is a highly non-trivial task, but a crucially important one when comparing experimental observations and interpreting their significance. Here we illustrate how the ability of neuroimaging to extract genuine functional brain activity is bounded by the structure of functional representations. To do so, we first provide a simple definition of functional brain activity from a system-level brain imaging perspective. We then review how the properties of the space on which brain activity is represented allow defining relations ranging from distinguishability to accessibility of observed imaging data. We show how these properties result from the structure defined on dynamical data and dynamics-to-function projections, and consider some implications that the way and extent to which these are defined have for the interpretation of experimental data from standard system-level brain recording techniques.