Differential roles of polar orbital prefrontal cortex and parietal lobes in logical reasoning with neutral and negative emotional content

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Abstract

To answer the question of how brain pathology affects reasoning about negative emotional content, we administered a disjunctive logical reasoning task involving arguments with neutral content (e.g. Either there are tigers or women in NYC, but not both; There are no tigers in NYC; There are women in NYC) and emotionally laden content (e.g. Either there are pedophiles or politicians in Texas, but not both; There are politicians in Texas; There are no pedophiles in Texas) to 92 neurological patients with focal lesions to various parts of the brain. A Voxel Lesion Symptom Mapping (VLSM) analysis identified 16 patients, all with lesions to the orbital polar prefrontal cortex (BA 10 & 11), as being selectively impaired in the emotional reasoning condition. Another 17 patients, all with lesions to the parietal cortex, were identified as being impaired in the neutral content condition. The reasoning scores of these two patient groups, along with 23 matched normal controls, underwent additional analysis to explore the effect of belief bias. This analysis revealed that the differences identified above were largely driven by trials where there was an incongruency between the believability of the conclusion and the validity of the argument (i.e. valid argument/false conclusion or invalid argument/true conclusion). Patients with lesions to polar orbital prefrontal cortex underperformed in incongruent emotional content trials and over performed in incongruent neutral content trials (compared to both normal controls and patients with parietal lobe lesions). Patients with lesions to parietal lobes underperformed normal controls (at a trend level) in neutral trials where there was a congruency between the believability of the conclusion and the validity of the argument (i.e. valid argument/true conclusion or invalid argument/false conclusion). We conclude that lesions to the polar orbital prefrontal cortex (i) prevent these patients from enjoying any emotionally induced cognitive boost, and (ii) block the belief bias processing route in the neutral condition. Lesions to parietal lobes result in a generalized impairment in logical reasoning with neutral content.

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