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In Frontiers in human neuroscience ; h5-index 79.0

In discourse comprehension, we need to draw inferences to make sense of discourse. Previous neuroimaging studies have investigated the neural correlates of causal inferences in discourse understanding. However, these findings have been divergent, and how these types of inferences are related to causal inferences in logical problem-solving remains unclear. Using the activation likelihood estimation (ALE) approach, the current meta-analysis analyzed 19 experiments on causal inferences in discourse understanding and 20 experiments on those in logical problem-solving to identify the neural correlates of these two cognitive processes and their shared and distinct neural correlates. We found that causal inferences in discourse comprehension recruited a left-lateralized frontotemporal brain system, including the left inferior frontal gyrus, the left middle temporal gyrus (MTG), and the bilateral medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC), while causal inferences in logical problem-solving engaged a nonoverlapping brain system in the frontal and parietal cortex, including the left inferior frontal gyrus, the bilateral middle frontal gyri, the dorsal MPFC, and the left inferior parietal lobule (IPL). Furthermore, the pattern similarity analyses showed that causal inferences in discourse understanding were primarily related to the terms about language processing and theory-of-mind processing. Both types of inferences were found to be related to the terms about memory and executive function. These findings suggest that causal inferences in discourse understanding recruit distinct neural bases from those in logical problem-solving and rely more on semantic knowledge and social interaction experiences.

Feng Wangshu, Wang Weijuan, Liu Jia, Wang Zhen, Tian Lingyun, Fan Lin

2021

causal inferences, discourse understanding, frontotemporal network, logical problem-solving, meta-analysis, neuroimaging