Thursday, July 02, 2009

Mental arithmetic uses brain's eye movement circuitry

Given the cultural link in left-to-right readers between small numbers and the left side of space, and large numbers and the right side of space, Knops et al predicted that mental addition, which increases number size, would be associated with a rightward shift of attention and subtraction with a leftward shift. Hence, the activation pattern in the parietal cortex (especially regions associated with saccadic eye movements) observed with MRI during addition would resemble the activation pattern associated with a rightward eye movement, whereas subtraction would resemble a leftward eye movement.

Here is their abstract:
Throughout the history of mathematics, concepts of number and space have been tightly intertwined. We tested the hypothesis that cortical circuits for spatial attention contribute to mental arithmetic in humans. We trained a multivariate classifier algorithm to infer the direction of an eye movement, left or right, from the brain activation measured in the posterior parietal cortex. Without further training, the classifier then generalized to an arithmetic task. Its left versus right classification could be used to sort out subtraction versus addition trials, whether performed with symbols or with sets of dots. These findings are consistent with the suggestion that mental arithmetic co-opts parietal circuitry associated with spatial coding.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:12 AM

    thanks for sharing this informative article!