Developmental shifts in fMRI activations during visuospatial relational reasoning

Paul J. Eslinger, Clancy Blair, Jian Li Wang, Bryn Lipovsky, Jennifer Realmuto, David Baker, Steven Thorne, David Gamson, Erin Zimmerman, Lisa Rohrer, Qing X. Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To investigate maturational plasticity of fluid cognition systems, functional brain imaging was undertaken in healthy 8-19 year old participants while completing visuospatial relational reasoning problems similar to Raven's matrices and current elementary grade math textbooks. Analyses revealed that visuospatial relational reasoning across this developmental age range recruited activations in the superior parietal cortices most prominently, the dorsolateral prefrontal, occipital-temporal, and premotor/supplementary cortices, the basal ganglia, and insula. There were comparable activity volumes in left and right hemispheres for nearly all of these regions. Regression analyses indicated increasing activity predominantly in the superior parietal lobes with developmental age. In contrast, multiple anterior neural systems showed significantly less activity with age, including dorsolateral and ventrolateral prefrontal, paracentral, and insula cortices bilaterally, basal ganglia, and particularly large clusters in the midline anterior cingulate/medial frontal cortex, left middle cingulate/supplementary motor cortex, left insula-putamen, and left caudate. Findings suggest that neuromaturational changes associated with visuospatial relational reasoning shift from a more widespread fronto-cingulate-striatal pattern in childhood to predominant parieto-frontal activation pattern in late adolescence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalBrain and cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2009


  • Basal ganglia
  • Developmental brain imaging
  • Fluid intelligence
  • Frontal lobe
  • Functional brain imaging
  • Parietal lobe
  • Relational reasoning
  • Visuospatial problem solving
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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