An fMRI investigation of cognitive stages in reasoning by analogy

Daniel C. Krawczyk, M. Michelle McClelland, Colin M. Donovan, Gail D. Tillman, Mandy J. Maguire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


We compared reasoning about four-term analogy problems in the format (A:B::C: D) to semantic and perceptual control conditions that required matching without analogical mapping. We investigated distinct phases of the problem solving process divided into encoding, mapping/inference, and response. Using fMRI, we assessed the brain activation relevant to each of these phases with an emphasis on achieving a better understanding of analogical reasoning relative to these other matching conditions. We predicted that the analogical condition would involve the most cognitive effort in the encoding and mapping/inference phases, while the control conditions were expected to engage greater prefrontal cortex (PFC) activation at the response period. Results showed greater activation for the analogical condition relative to the control conditions at the encoding phase in several predominantly left lateralized and medial areas of the PFC. Similar results were observed for the mapping/inference phase, though this difference was limited to the left PFC and rostral PFC. The response phase resulted in the fastest and most accurate responses in the analogy condition relative to the control conditions. This was accompanied by greater processing within the left lateral and the medial PFC for the control conditions relative to the analogy condition, consistent with most of the cognitive processing of the analogy condition having occurred in the prior task phases. Overall we demonstrate that the left ventral and dorsal lateral, medial, and rostral PFC are important in both the encoding of relational information, mapping and inference processes, and verification of semantic and perceptual responses in four term analogical reasoning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-73
Number of pages11
JournalBrain Research
StatePublished - Jun 25 2010


  • Analogy
  • Prefrontal Cortex
  • Reasoning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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