Shared and distinct neural circuitry for nonsymbolic and symbolic double-digit addition.
Symbolic arithmetic is a complex, uniquely human ability that is acquired through direct instruction. In contrast, the capacity to mentally add and subtract nonsymbolic quantities such as dot arrays emerges without instruction and can be seen in human infants and nonhuman animals. One possibility is that the mental manipulation of nonsymbolic arrays provides a critical scaffold for developing symbolic arithmetic abilities. To explore this hypothesis, we examined whether there is a shared neural basis for nonsymbolic and symbolic double-digit addition. In parallel, we asked whether there are brain regions that are associated with nonsymbolic and symbolic addition independently. First, relative to visually matched control tasks, we found that both nonsymbolic and symbolic addition elicited greater neural signal in the bilateral intraparietal sulcus (IPS), bilateral inferior temporal gyrus, and the right superior parietal lobule. Subsequent representational similarity analyses revealed that the neural similarity between nonsymbolic and symbolic addition was stronger relative to the similarity between each addition condition and its visually matched control task, but only in the bilateral IPS. These findings suggest that the IPS is involved in arithmetic calculation independent of stimulus format.
Bugden, S; Woldorff, MG; Brannon, EM
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