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Neural representations of two-digit numbers: a parametric fMRI study.

When participants are asked to decide which of a pair of two-digit Arabic numbers is larger, they compare units and decades, even when units are irrelevant. Typically, behavioral responses are slower when units are incongruent with the decade comparison (e.g. 81_26, because 8 > 2 but 1 < 6; unit-decade compatibility effect, [Nuerk, H.-C., Weger, U., Willmes, K. 2001. Decade breaks in the mental number line? Putting the tens and units back in different bins. Cognition 82, B25-B33.]). We defined parametric regressors to examine the effect of decade digit distance and unit distance-based compatibility processing on the fMRI signal to investigate the neural correlates of two-digit magnitude processing. Fourteen male right-handed volunteers (mean age = 27, range 21-38 years) took part in the study. In a rapid event-related design, participants had to decide which of two two-digit Arabic numbers was larger. Data were preprocessed and analyzed statistically in SPM2. Activation in the anterior portion of the right IPS was significantly modulated by compatibility-based unit distance processing. Furthermore, decade distance predicted an increase in the fMRI signal from cortex around the left IPS, right anterior and right posterior IPS. These results indicate that magnitude representations of unit-decade compatibility and decade distance are subserved by the intraparietal cortex and that the symbolic structure of the Arabic number system is an important determinant of multi-digit number magnitude processing. Implications of the present results in terms of general symbolic information processing are discussed.[1]

References

  1. Neural representations of two-digit numbers: a parametric fMRI study. Wood, G., Nuerk, H.C., Willmes, K. Neuroimage (2006) [Pubmed]
 
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