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Neuroimage. 2012 Feb 1;59(3):2831-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.09.030. Epub 2011 Sep 29.

A bilateral frontoparietal network underlies visuospatial analogical reasoning.

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Department of Neurology and Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, 3 West Gates Building, 3400 Spruce St., University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, 19104, USA.


Our ability to reason by analogy facilitates problem solving and allows us to communicate ideas efficiently. In this study, we examined the neural correlates of analogical reasoning and, more specifically, the contribution of rostrolateral prefrontal cortex (RLPFC) to reasoning. This area of the brain has been hypothesized to integrate relational information, as in analogy, or the outcomes of subgoals, as in multi-tasking and complex problem solving. Using fMRI, we compared visuospatial analogical reasoning to a control task that was as complex and difficult as the analogies and required the coordination of subgoals but not the integration of relations. We found that analogical reasoning more strongly activated bilateral RLPFC, suggesting that anterior prefrontal cortex is preferentially recruited by the integration of relational knowledge. Consistent with the need for inhibition during analogy, bilateral, and particularly right, inferior frontal gyri were also more active during analogy. Finally, greater activity in bilateral inferior parietal cortex during the analogy task is consistent with recent evidence for the neural basis of spatial relation knowledge. Together, these findings indicate that a network of frontoparietal areas underlies analogical reasoning; we also suggest that hemispheric differences may emerge depending on the visuospatial or verbal/semantic nature of the analogies.

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