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Neural correlates of fluid reasoning in children and adults.

  • Author(s): Wright, Samantha
  • Matlen, Bryan
  • Baym, Carol
  • Ferrer, Emilio
  • Bunge, Silvia
  • et al.
Abstract

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.

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