Functional neuroanatomy of three-term relational reasoning

Neuropsychologia. 2001;39(9):901-9. doi: 10.1016/s0028-3932(01)00024-0.


In a recent study we demonstrated that reasoning with categorical syllogisms engages two dissociable mechanisms. Reasoning involving concrete sentences engaged a left hemisphere linguistic system while formally identical arguments, involving abstract sentences, recruited a parietal spatial network. The involvement of a parietal visuo-spatial system in abstract syllogism reasoning raised the question whether argument forms involving explicit spatial relations (or relations that can be easily mapped onto spatial relations) are sufficient to engage the parietal system? We addressed this question in an event-related fMRI study of three-term relational reasoning, using sentences with concrete and abstract content. Our findings indicate that both concrete and abstract three-term relational arguments activate a similar bilateral occipital-parietal-frontal network. However, the abstract reasoning condition engendered greater parietal activation than the concrete reasoning condition. We conclude that arguments involving relations that can be easily mapped onto explicit spatial relations engage a visuo-spatial system, irrespective of concrete or abstract content.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Cognition*
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Visual Perception