Individual differences in analogical reasoning revealed by multivariate task-based functional brain imaging

Rubi Hammer, Erick J. Paul, Charles H Hillman, Arthur F Kramer, Neal J. Cohen, Aron K. Barbey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although analogical reasoning (AR) plays a central role in higher-level cognition and constitutes a key source of individual differences in intellectual ability, the neural mechanisms that account for individual differences in AR remain to be well characterized. Here we investigated individual differences in AR within a large sample (n = 229), using multivariate fMRI analysis (a simple multiple kernel learning machine). The individual AR capability was positively correlated with activation level in a prefrontal executive network and a visuospatial network. Notably, the best predictors of individual differences in AR within these networks were activation in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (response selection) and the lingual gyrus (visual feature mapping). In contrast, AR capability was negatively correlated with activation in the default mode network. The implications of the reported findings are twofold: (i) Individual differences in AR depend on multiple executive and visuospatial brain regions, where their respective contributions are contingent upon the individuals’ cognitive skills; (ii) Brain regions associated with individual differences in AR only partially overlap with brain regions sensitive to the associated task demands (i.e., brain regions sensitive to the analogy relational complexity, at the group-level). We discuss implications of such brain organization supporting AR as an example for brain architecture underlying higher-level cognitive processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)993-1004
Number of pages12
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • Analogical reasoning
  • Higher-level cognition
  • Large-scale brain networks
  • Relational similarity
  • Visual cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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