New knowledge derived from learned knowledge: Functional-anatomic correlates of stimulus equivalence

Michael W. Schlund, Rudolf Hoehn-Saric, Michael F. Cataldo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Forming new knowledge based on knowledge established through prior learning is a central feature of higher cognition that is captured in research on stimulus equivalence (SE). Numerous SE investigations show that reinforcing behavior under control of distinct sets of arbitrary conditional relations gives rise to stimulus control by new, derived relations. This investigation examined whether frontal-subcortical and frontal-parietal networks known to support reinforced conditional relations also support derived conditional relations. Twelve adult subjects completed matching-to-sample (MTS) training with correct/wrong feedback to establish four trained conditional relations within two distinct, three-member stimulus classes: (1) A1→B1, B1→C1 and (2) A2→B2, B2→C2. Afterwards, functional neuroimaging was performed when MTS trials were presented involving matching two identical circles (a sensorimotor control condition), trained relations (A→B, B→C), and derived relations: symmetry (B→A, C→B), transitivity (A→C), and equivalence (C→A). Conditional responding to trained and derived relations was similarly correlated with bilateral activation in the targeted networks. Comparing trained to derived relations, however, highlighted greater activation in several prefrontal regions, the caudate, thalamus, and putamen, which may represent the effects of extended training or feedback present during imaging. Each derived relation also evidenced a unique activation pattern. Collectively, the findings extend the role of frontal-subcortical and frontal-parietal networks to derived conditional relations and suggest that regional involvement varies with the type of derived conditional relation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-307
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of the experimental analysis of behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2007


  • Conditional learning
  • Event-related fMRI
  • Humans
  • Neuroimaging
  • Relational memory
  • Stimulus equivalence
  • Visuomotor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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