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Neuroimage. 2000 Oct;12(4):357-65.

Dissociating prefrontal and parietal cortex activation during arithmetic processing.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California 94305, USA.


Lesion and brain-imaging studies have implicated the prefrontal and parietal cortices in arithmetic processing, but do not exclude the possibility that these brain areas are also involved in nonarithmetic operations. In the present study, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to explore which brain areas contribute uniquely to numeric computation. Task difficulty was manipulated in a factorial design by varying the number of operands and the rate of stimulus presentation. Both manipulations increased the number of operations to be performed in unit time. Manipulating the number of operands allowed us to investigate the specific effect of calculation, while manipulating the rate of presentation allowed us to increase task difficulty independent of calculation. We found quantitative changes in activation patterns in the prefrontal and parietal cortices as well as the recruitment of additional brain regions, including the caudate and midcerebellar cortex, with increasing task difficulty. More importantly, the main effect of arithmetic complexity was observed in the left and right angular gyrus, while the main effect of rate of stimulus presentation was observed in the left insular/orbitofrontal cortex. Our findings indicate a dissociation in prefrontal and parietal cortex function during arithmetic processing and further provide the first evidence for a specific role for the angular gyrus in arithmetic computation independent of other processing demands.

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