Dissociated neural correlates of quantity processing of quantifiers, numbers, and numerosities

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Abstract

Quantities can be represented using either mathematical language (i.e., numbers) or natural language (i.e., quantifiers). Previous studies have shown that numerical processing elicits greater activation in the brain regions around the intraparietal sulcus (IPS) relative to other semantic processes. However, little research has been conducted to investigate whether the IPS is also critical for the semantic processing of quantifiers in natural language. In this study, 20 adults were scanned with functional magnetic resonance imaging while they performed semantic distance judgment involving six types of materials (i.e., frequency adverbs, quantity pronouns and nouns, animal names, Arabic digits, number words, and dot arrays). Conjunction analyses of brain activation showed that numbers and dot arrays elicited greater activation in the right IPS than did words (i.e., animal names) or quantifiers (i.e., frequency adverbs and quantity pronouns and nouns). Quantifiers elicited more activation in left middle temporal gyrus and inferior frontal gyrus than did numbers and dot arrays. No differences were found between quantifiers and animal names. These findings suggest that, although quantity processing for numbers and dot arrays typically relies on the right IPS region, quantity processing for quantifiers typically relies on brain regions for general semantic processing. Thus, the IPS does not appear to be the only brain region for quantity processing. Hum Brain Mapp 35:444–454, 2014. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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