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Brain Res. 2006 Jan 5;1067(1):181-8. Epub 2005 Dec 15.

Parametric effects of numerical distance on the intraparietal sulcus during passive viewing of rapid numerosity changes.

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Numerical Cognition Laboratory, Department of Education, Dartmouth College, 3 Maynard Street, Raven House, Hanover, NH 03755, USA. Daniel.Ansari@Dartmouth.Edu


A number of functional neuroimaging studies have revealed that regions in and around the intraparietal sulcus (IPS) are parametrically modulated by numerical distance, whereby there is an inverse relationship between distance and levels of activation. These areas are thus thought to contain the internal representation of numerical magnitude. Nevertheless, it has also been suggested that the IPS is involved in response selection during number comparison tasks rather than the representation of numerical magnitude per se. In order to test the independence of the effect of distance on cortical regions, we employed a passive viewing paradigm. Sixteen right-handed male participants viewed rapidly changing slides containing arrays of squares. By varying the distance between the numerosity presented in separate blocks (8 vs. 8, 8 vs. 12, and 8 vs. 16), we examined which regions exhibit a parametric effect of numerical distance. This analysis revealed such effects in the superior part of the IPS bilaterally as well as the superior parietal lobule and the supramarginal gyrus. In contrast, slides rapidly changing in area but not number (Area constant, Area x 1, and Area x 2) did not yield a parametric effect of distance in these regions. Instead, a reverse effect of area was found in a region of the calcarine sulcus. These findings suggest that areas in and around the IPS are involved in numerical magnitude discrimination in the absence of an explicit task and response requirements.

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