Common and dissociable prefrontal loci associated with component mechanisms of analogical reasoning

Cereb Cortex. 2010 Mar;20(3):524-33. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhp121. Epub 2009 Jun 23.


The ability to draw analogies requires 2 key cognitive processes, relational integration and resolution of interference. The present study aimed to identify the neural correlates of both component processes of analogical reasoning within a single, nonverbal analogy task using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging. Participants verified whether a visual analogy was true by considering either 1 or 3 relational dimensions. On half of the trials, there was an additional need to resolve interference in order to make a correct judgment. Increase in the number of dimensions to integrate was associated with increased activation in the lateral prefrontal cortex as well as lateral frontal pole in both hemispheres. When there was a need to resolve interference during reasoning, activation increased in the lateral prefrontal cortex but not in the frontal pole. We identified regions in the middle and inferior frontal gyri which were exclusively sensitive to demands on each component process, in addition to a partial overlap between these neural correlates of each component process. These results indicate that analogical reasoning is mediated by the coordination of multiple regions of the prefrontal cortex, of which some are sensitive to demands on only one of these 2 component processes, whereas others are sensitive to both.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Concept Formation / physiology*
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Prefrontal Cortex / blood supply
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Young Adult


  • Oxygen