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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

November 2018, Vol. 30, No. 11, Pages 1734-1748
(doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_01311)
© 2018 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Neural Correlates of Relational Reasoning: A Meta-analysis of 47 Functional Magnetic Resonance Studies
Article PDF (1.16 MB)
It is a core cognitive ability of humans to represent and reason about relational information, such as “the train station is north of the hotel” or “Charles is richer than Jim.” However, the neural processes underlying the ability to draw conclusions about relations are still not sufficiently understood. Central open questions are as follows: (1) What are the neural correlates of relational reasoning? (2) Where can deductive and inductive reasoning be localized? (3) What is the impact of different informational types on cerebral activity? For that, we conducted a meta-analysis of 47 neuroimaging studies. We found activation of the frontoparietal network during both deductive and inductive reasoning, with additional activation in an extended network during inductive reasoning in the basal ganglia and the inferior parietal cortex. Analyses revealed a double dissociation concerning the lateral and medial Brodmann's area 6 during deductive and inductive reasoning, indicating differences in terms of processing verbal information in deductive and spatial information in inductive tasks. During semantic and symbolic tasks, the frontoparietal network was found active, whereas geometric tasks only elicited prefrontal activation, which can be explained by the reduced demand for the construction of a mental representation in geometric tasks. Our study provides new insights into the cognitive mechanisms underlying relational reasoning and clarifies previous controversies concerning involved brain areas.