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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

April 2008, Vol. 20, No. 4, Pages 682-693
(doi: 10.1162/jocn.2008.20055)
© 2008 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
“Brain Is to Thought as Stomach Is to ??”: Investigating the Role of Rostrolateral Prefrontal Cortex in Relational Reasoning
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Brain imaging studies suggest that the rostrolateral prefrontal cortex (RLPFC), is involved in relational reasoning. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies involving Raven's Progressive Matrices or verbal propositional analogies indicate that the RLPFC is engaged by tasks that require integration across multiple relational structures. Several studies have shown that the RLPFC is more active when people must evaluate an analogy (e.g., Is shoe to foot as glove is to hand?) than when they must simply evaluate two individual semantic relationships, consistent with the hypothesis that this region is important for relational integration. The current fMRI investigation further explores the role of the RLPFC in reasoning and relational integration by comparing RLPFC activation across four different propositional analogy conditions. Each of the four conditions required either relation completion (e.g., Shoe is to foot as glove is to WHAT? → “hand”) or relation comparison (e.g., Is shoe to foot as glove is to hand? → “yes”). The RLPFC was engaged more strongly by the comparison subtask relative to completion, suggesting that the RLPFC is particularly involved in comparing relational structures.