Specialization in the human brain: the case of numbers.
Cohen Kadosh R., Bahrami B., Walsh V., Butterworth B., Popescu T., Price CJ.
How numerical representation is encoded in the adult human brain is important for a basic understanding of human brain organization, its typical and atypical development, its evolutionary precursors, cognitive architectures, education, and rehabilitation. Previous studies have shown that numerical processing activates the same intraparietal regions irrespective of the presentation format (e.g., symbolic digits or non-symbolic dot arrays). This has led to claims that there is a single format-independent, numerical representation. In the current study we used a functional magnetic resonance adaptation paradigm, and effective connectivity analysis to re-examine whether numerical processing in the intraparietal sulci is dependent or independent on the format of the stimuli. We obtained two novel results. First, the whole brain analysis revealed that format change (e.g., from dots to digits), in the absence of a change in magnitude, activated the same intraparietal regions as magnitude change, but to a greater degree. Second, using dynamic causal modeling as a tool to disentangle neuronal specialization across regions that are commonly activated, we found that the connectivity between the left and right intraparietal sulci is format-dependent. Together, this line of results supports the idea that numerical representation is subserved by multiple mechanisms within the same parietal regions.