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Paper   IPM / Cognitive Sciences / 14670
School of Cognitive Sciences
  Title:   Major Thought Restructuring: the roles of different prefrontal cortical regions
1.  S. Seyed-Allaei
2.  Z. Nasiri Avanaki
3.  B. Bahrami
4.  T. Shallice
  Status:   Published
  Journal: Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
  Vol.:  7
  Year:  2017
  Pages:   1147-1161
  Supported by:  IPM
An important question for understanding the neural basis of problem solving is whether the regions of human prefrontal cortices play qualitatively different roles in the major cognitive restructuring required to solve difficult problems. However, investigating this question using neuroimaging faces a major dilemma: either the problems do not require major cognitive restructuring, or if they do, the restructuring typically happens once, rendering repeated measurements of the critical mental process impossible. To circumvent these problems, young adult participants were challenged with a one-dimensional Subtraction (or Nim) problem (Bouton, 1901) that can be tackled using two possible strategies. One, often used initially, is effortful, slow and error-prone while the abstract solution, once achieved, is easier, quicker and more accurate. Behaviorally, success was strongly correlated with gender. Using Voxel Based Morphometry analysis controlling for gender, we found that participants who found the more abstract strategy (i.e. Solvers) had more grey matter volume in the anterior medial, ventrolateral prefrontal, and parietal cortices compared to those who never switched from the initial effortful strategy (i.e. Explorers). Removing the gender covariate showed higher grey matter volume in Solvers (vs Explorers) in the right ventrolateral prefrontal and left parietal cortex.

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