Rostrolateral prefrontal cortex involvement in relational integration during reasoning

Neuroimage. 2001 Nov;14(5):1136-49. doi: 10.1006/nimg.2001.0922.


Patient and neuroimaging studies indicate that complex reasoning tasks are associated with the prefrontal cortex (PFC). In this study, we tested the hypothesis that the process of relational integration, or considering multiple relations simultaneously, is a component process of complex reasoning that selectively recruits PFC. We used fMRI to examine brain activation during 0-relational, 1-relational, and 2-relational problems adapted from the Raven's Progressive Matrices and hypothesized that PFC would be preferentially recruited by the 2-relational problem type. Event-related responses were modeled by convolving a canonical hemodynamic response function with the response time (RT) associated with each trial. The results across different analyses revealed the same pattern: PFC activation was specific to the comparison between 2- and 1-relational problems and was not observed in the comparison between 1- and 0-relational problems. Furthermore, the process of relational integration was specifically associated with bilateral rostrolateral PFC (RLPFC; lateral area 10) and right dorsolateral PFC (areas 9 and 46). Left RLPFC showed the greatest specificity by remaining preferentially recruited during 2-relational problems even after comparisons were restricted to trials matched for RT and accuracy. The link between RLPFC and the process of relational integration may be due to the associated process of manipulating self-generated information, a process that may characterize RLPFC function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology
  • Female
  • Hemodynamics / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Problem Solving / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Sensitivity and Specificity