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Neuropsychologia. 1991;29(11):1045-54.

Two mental calculation systems: a case study of severe acalculia with preserved approximation.

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INSERM & CNRS Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistique, Paris, France.


We report the case of an aphasic and acalculic patient with selective preservation of approximation abilities. The patient's deficit was so severe that he judged 2 + 2 = 5 to be correct, illustrating a radical impairment in exact calculation. However, he easily rejected grossly false additions such as 2 + 2 = 9, therefore demonstrating a preserved knowledge of the approximate result. The dissociation between impaired exact processing and preserved approximation was identified in several numerical tasks: solving and verifying arithmetical operations, number reading, short-term memory, number comparison, parity judgement, and number knowledge. We suggest the existence of two distinct number-processing routes in the normal subject. One route permits exact number representation, memory and calculation using symbolic notation. The other route allows for approximate computations using an analog representation of quantities.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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