Decoding rule search domain in the left inferior frontal gyrus

Michele Furlan, Laura Babcock, Antonino Vallesi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Traditionally, the left hemisphere has been thought to extract mainly verbal patterns of information, but recent evidence has shown that the left Inferior Frontal Gyrus (IFG) is active during inductive reasoning in both the verbal and spatial domains. We aimed to understand whether the left IFG supports inductive reasoning in a domain-specific or domain-general fashion. To do this we used Multi-Voxel Pattern Analysis to decode the representation of domain during a rule search task. Thirteen participants were asked to extract the rule underlying streams of letters presented in different spatial locations. Each rule was either verbal (letters forming words) or spatial (positions forming geometric figures). Our results show that domain was decodable in the left prefrontal cortex, suggesting that this region represents domain-specific information, rather than processes common to the two domains. A replication study with the same participants tested two years later confirmed these findings, though the individual representations changed, providing evidence for the flexible nature of representations. This study extends our knowledge on the neural basis of goal-directed behaviors and on how information relevant for rule extraction is flexibly mapped in the prefrontal cortex.

Original languageEnglish
Article number194054
JournalPLoS One
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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