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Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Hum. Neurosci., 28 March 2008 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/neuro.09.008.2007

Neural correlates of fluid reasoning in children and adults

1
Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA
2
Department of Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, CA, USA
3
Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL, USA
4
Department of Psychology, University of California at Davis, Davis, CA, USA
5
Department of Psychology, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA
Fluid reasoning, or the capacity to think logically and solve novel problems, is central to the development of human cognition, but little is known about the underlying neural changes. During the acquisition of event-related fMRI data, children aged 6–13 (N = 16) and young adults (N = 17) performed a task in which they were asked to identify semantic relationships between drawings of common objects. On semantic problems, participants indicated which of five objects was most closely semantically related to a cued object. On analogy problems, participants solved a visual propositional analogy (e.g., shoe is to foot as glove is to…?) by indicating which of four objects would complete the problem; these problems required integration of two semantic relations, or relational integration. Our prior research on analogical reasoning in adults implicated left anterior ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC) in the controlled retrieval of individual semantic relationships, and rostrolateral prefrontal cortex (RLPFC) in relational integration. In this study, age-related changes in the recruitment of VLPFC, temporal cortex, and other cortical regions were observed during the retrieval of individual semantic relations. In contrast, age-related changes in RLPFC function were observed during relational integration. Children aged 6–13 engage RLPFC too late in the analogy trials to influence their behavioral responses, suggesting that important changes in RLPFC function take place during adolescence.
Keywords:
development, cognition, brain, analogy, relational, functional magnetic resonance imaging, hierarchy, frontal
Citation:
Wright SB, Matlen BJ, Baym CL, Ferrer E and Bunge SA (2008). Neural correlates of fluid reasoning in children and adults. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 1:8. doi: 10.3389/neuro.09/008.2007
Received:
19 September 2007;
 Paper pending published:
29 November 2007;
Accepted:
30 January 2008;
 Published online:
28 March 2008.

Edited by:

Robert T. Knight, University of California Berkeley, USA

Reviewed by:

Anna C. Nobre, University of Oxford, UK
Donald T. Stuss, Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, Canada; University of Toronto, Canada
Copyright:
© 2008 Wright, Matlen, Baym, Ferrer and Bunge. This is an open-access article subject to an exclusive license agreement between the authors and the Frontiers Research Foundation, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original authors and source are credited.
*Correspondence:
Silvia A. Bunge, Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute & Department of Psychology, University of California at Berkeley, 132 Barker Hall, MC #3190 Berkeley, CA 94720-3190, USA. e-mail: sbunge@berkeley.edu