Dissociation of Mechanisms Underlying Syllogistic Reasoning

NeuroImage 12 (5):504-514 (2000)
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A key question for cognitive theories of reasoning is whether logical reasoning is inherently a sentential linguistic process or a process requiring spatial manipulation and search. We addressed this question in an event-related fMRI study of syllogistic reasoning, using sentences with and without semantic content. Our findings indicate involvement of two dissociable networks in deductive reasoning. During content-based reasoning a left hemisphere temporal system was recruited. By contrast, a formally identical reasoning task, which lacked semantic content, activated a parietal system. The two systems share common components in bilateral basal ganglia nuclei, right cerebellum, bilateral fusiform gyri, and left prefrontal cortex. We conclude that syllogistic reasoning is implemented in two distinct systems whose engagement is primarily a function of the presence or absence of semantic content. Furthermore, when a logical argument results in a belief–logic conflict, the nature of the reasoning process is changed by recruitment of the right prefrontal cortex



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