Neural correlates of symbolic and non-symbolic arithmetic.


PubMedID: 15721187

Venkatraman V, Ansari D, Chee MW. Neural correlates of symbolic and non-symbolic arithmetic. Neuropsychologia. 2005;43(5):744-53.
Recent evidence suggests that areas in and around the intraparietal sulcus (IPS) represent magnitude in a stimulus-independent format. However, it has not been established whether the same is true for mental arithmetic or whether activation for higher level numerical processing diverges as a function of stimulus format. We addressed this question in a functional imaging study by presenting participants with simple addition problems using both symbolic (Arabic numerals) and non-symbolic (arrays of dots) stimuli. Conjunction analysis revealed common neural substrates for symbolic and non-symbolic addition in the anterior IPS bilaterally, left posterior IPS, medial frontal gyrus and left precentral gyrus. Right parietal and frontal cortex showed greater activation for non-symbolic addition. Our results demonstrate that mental arithmetic, studied using addition problems, is processed within the IPS independent of stimulus form. Additionally we examined whether exact and approximate addition conditions activated different neural substrates as a function of stimulus format. We did not find any differences between exact and approximate addition using symbolic and non-symbolic stimuli. This could be due to the inability of the participants to suppress exact calculation for single-digit addition problems. In contrast to recent findings, we found no significant activation for exact addition condition in left, language-related areas.