Dissociating Language and Thought in Human Reasoning †

John P. Coetzee, Micah A. Johnson, Youngzie Lee, Allan D. Wu, Marco Iacoboni, Martin M. Monti*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


What is the relationship between language and complex thought? In the context of deductive reasoning there are two main views. Under the first, which we label here the language-centric view, language is central to the syntax-like combinatorial operations of complex reasoning. Under the second, which we label here the language-independent view, these operations are dissociable from the mechanisms of natural language. We applied continuous theta burst stimulation (cTBS), a form of noninvasive neuromodulation, to healthy adult participants to transiently inhibit a subregion of Broca’s area (left BA44) associated in prior work with parsing the syntactic relations of natural language. We similarly inhibited a subregion of dorsomedial frontal cortex (left medial BA8) which has been associated with core features of logical reasoning. There was a significant interaction between task and stimulation site. Post hoc tests revealed that performance on a linguistic reasoning task, but not deductive reasoning task, was significantly impaired after inhibition of left BA44, and performance on a deductive reasoning task, but not linguistic reasoning task, was decreased after inhibition of left medial BA8 (however not significantly). Subsequent linear contrasts supported this pattern. These novel results suggest that deductive reasoning may be dissociable from linguistic processes in the adult human brain, consistent with the language-independent view.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number67
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • cognition
  • deductive reasoning
  • language
  • neuromodulation
  • theta burst stimulation
  • transcranial magnetic stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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