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Hum Brain Mapp. 2016 May;37(5):1953-69. doi: 10.1002/hbm.23149. Epub 2016 Mar 25.

General and specialized brain correlates for analogical reasoning: A meta-analysis of functional imaging studies.

Hobeika L1,2,3,4,5, Diard-Detoeuf C1,2,3,4, Garcin B1,2,3,4, Levy R1,2,3,4,5, Volle E1,2,3,4.

Author information

Inserm, U 1127, Paris, 75013, France.
CNRS UMR 7225, Paris, 75013, France.
Sorbonne Universités, UPMC Univ Paris 06, UMR S 1127, Paris, 75013, France.
ICM, Frontlab, Paris, 75013, France.
AP-HP, Hôpital De La Salpêtrière, Behavioural Neuropsychiatry Unit, Paris, 75013, France.


Reasoning by analogy allows us to link distinct domains of knowledge and to transfer solutions from one domain to another. Analogical reasoning has been studied using various tasks that have generally required the consideration of the relationships between objects and their integration to infer an analogy schema. However, these tasks varied in terms of the level and the nature of the relationships to consider (e.g., semantic, visuospatial). The aim of this study was to identify the cerebral network involved in analogical reasoning and its specialization based on the domains of information and task specificity. We conducted a coordinate-based meta-analysis of 27 experiments that used analogical reasoning tasks. The left rostrolateral prefrontal cortex was one of the regions most consistently activated across the studies. A comparison between semantic and visuospatial analogy tasks showed both domain-oriented regions in the inferior and middle frontal gyri and a domain-general region, the left rostrolateral prefrontal cortex, which was specialized for analogy tasks. A comparison of visuospatial analogy to matrix problem tasks revealed that these two relational reasoning tasks engage, at least in part, distinct right and left cerebral networks, particularly separate areas within the left rostrolateral prefrontal cortex. These findings highlight several cognitive and cerebral differences between relational reasoning tasks that can allow us to make predictions about the respective roles of distinct brain regions or networks. These results also provide new, testable anatomical hypotheses about reasoning disorders that are induced by brain damage. Hum Brain Mapp 37:1953-1969, 2016.


abstraction; analogy; functional MRI; meta-analysis; neural correlates; reasoning; relational reasoning; rostral prefrontal

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