A Brain with “Multiple Demand” Is What Drives Human Reasoning, Scientists Say

Neuroscientists develop a new approach to better understand the neural mechanism underlying deductive and inductive reasoning

Prof. Hyeon-Ae Jeon (left) and Mr. Minho Shin (right) from Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology (DGIST), Korea, who led the trailblazing study on human reasoning.

What drives decision-making? Scientists from DGIST, Korea, have come up with a new method that helps answer this age-old puzzle.

Reasoning is an ability that is unique to human cognition. However, despite our advances in neuroimaging techniques, we cannot clearly map the neural regions involved in human reasoning. In a new study, researchers from Korea came up with a new approach to understand the foundations of both inductive and deductive reasoning and identify the major brain areas responsible, paving the way for uncovering the mechanisms of various other cognitive processes.

 

One of the factors that make us uniquely “human” is our ability to reason, i.e., to cognitively analyze situations, predict possible outcomes, and make decisions accordingly. Broadly speaking, human reasoning can be classified as “inductive,” which involves making predictions based on existing knowledge, and “deductive,” in which definitive conclusions are reached from given premises. However, despite the cutting-edge technology we have at our disposal, neuroscientists are yet to pinpoint where this ability stems from.

Scientists typically use a global approach called “meta-analysis,” a statistical method combining results of previous studies to derive conclusions. However, meta-analyses in this field have not adequately accounted for the complex folded geometry of the cortical surface (the surface of the two brain hemispheres).

 

Now, a recent study published in Cerebral Cortex could be the trailblazer for new insights into the matter. Prof. Hyeon-Ae Jeon from Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology (DGIST), Korea, and her PhD student Minho Shin have developed a new meta-analysis method called “Bayesian meta-analysis of the cortical surface” (BMACS) that infers spatial patterns of brain activity during reasoning (both inductive and deductive) from peak brain activations data by applying the log Gaussian Cox processes to the cortical surface. “We went with the most appropriate and rigorous approach, given the scarcity of studies using cortical surface-based analysis,” explains Prof. Jeon. “Our method not only factors in the folded cortical surface geometry but also reduces the computation time significantly compared to previous meta-analyses methods.”

 

The duo applied BMACS to data collected from 74 studies and found that the pattern of activations for both inductive and deductive reasoning were located in a set of brain regions commonly known as “the multiple-demand (MD) system” that has been known to be involved in different kinds of cognitive challenges such as the selection of task-relevant stimuli of a current cognitive operation, swift reorganization with changing context, and separation of successive stages of task steps, which are intrinsic to the underlying mechanism for humans’ flexible thoughts and problem- solving.

 

“Our study suggests that the reasoning process occurs in a dynamic way, being closely interwoven with numerous cognitive processes and being intrinsic to human high-level cognition,” says Prof. Jeon, excited by their findings. “We hope that BMACS will be applied for future cortical surface-based studies and will help unveil the neural mechanisms of diverse cognitive processes.”

 

With a start like this, we are certainly eager to find out!

 

Reference

Authors:

Minho Shin1 and Hyeon-Ae Jeon1,2

Title of original paper:

A Cortical Surface-Based Meta-Analysis of Human Reasoning

Journal:

Cerebral Cortex

DOI:

10.1093/cercor/bhab174

Affiliations:

1Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology (DGIST), Daegu 42988, Korea

2Partner Group of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences at the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, DGIST, Daegu 42988, Korea

 

*Corresponding author’s email: [email protected]

 

 

About Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology (DGIST)

Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology (DGIST) is a well-known and respected research institute located in Daegu, Republic of Korea. Established in 2004 by the Korean Government, the main aim of DGIST is to promote national science and technology, as well as to boost the local economy.

With a vision of “Changing the world through convergence", DGIST has undertaken a wide range of research in various fields of science and technology. DGIST has embraced a multidisciplinary approach to research and undertaken intensive studies in some of today's most vital fields. DGIST also has state-of-the-art-infrastructure to enable cutting-edge research in materials science, robotics, cognitive sciences, and communication engineering.

 

Website: https://www.dgist.ac.kr/en/html/sub01/010204.html

 

 

About the author

Dr. Hyeon-Ae Jeon is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology (DGIST), Korea. Her research interests lie in fMRI brain imaging and high-level cognition. She is also a director of the DGIST- Max Planck Institute Research Partner Center for High-Level Human Cognition. She has published 22 papers and has over 300 citations to her credit.

Published: 06 Sep 2021

Contact details:

Nari Kim

333, Techno jungang-daero, Hyeonpung-myeon, Dalseong-gun, Daegu, 42988

+82-53-785-1135
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