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Lesion mapping of social problem solving

Aron K. Barbey, Roberto Colom, Erick J. Paul, Aileen Chau, Jeffrey Solomon, Jordan H. Grafman
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/awu207 awu207 First published online: 28 July 2014


Accumulating neuroscience evidence indicates that human intelligence is supported by a distributed network of frontal and parietal regions that enable complex, goal-directed behaviour. However, the contributions of this network to social aspects of intellectual function remain to be well characterized. Here, we report a human lesion study (n = 144) that investigates the neural bases of social problem solving (measured by the Everyday Problem Solving Inventory) and examine the degree to which individual differences in performance are predicted by a broad spectrum of psychological variables, including psychometric intelligence (measured by the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale), emotional intelligence (measured by the Mayer, Salovey, Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test), and personality traits (measured by the Neuroticism-Extraversion-Openness Personality Inventory). Scores for each variable were obtained, followed by voxel-based lesion–symptom mapping. Stepwise regression analyses revealed that working memory, processing speed, and emotional intelligence predict individual differences in everyday problem solving. A targeted analysis of specific everyday problem solving domains (involving friends, home management, consumerism, work, information management, and family) revealed psychological variables that selectively contribute to each. Lesion mapping results indicated that social problem solving, psychometric intelligence, and emotional intelligence are supported by a shared network of frontal, temporal, and parietal regions, including white matter association tracts that bind these areas into a coordinated system. The results support an integrative framework for understanding social intelligence and make specific recommendations for the application of the Everyday Problem Solving Inventory to the study of social problem solving in health and disease.

  • social intelligence
  • latent variable modelling
  • voxel-based lesion–symptom mapping
  • Abbreviations
    Everyday Problem Solving Inventory
    Mayer, Salovey, Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test
    Neuroticism-Extroversion-Openness Personality Inventory
    Vietnam Head Injury Study
    Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale
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