[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: It has been recently proposed that adults might solve single-digit addition and subtraction problems by rapidly moving through an ordered representation of numbers. In the present study, we tested whether these movements manifest themselves by on-line shifts of attention during arithmetic problem-solving. In two experiments, adult participants were presented with single-digit addition, subtraction and multiplication problems. Operands and operator were presented sequentially on the screen. Although both the first operand and the operator were presented at the center of the screen, the second operand was presented either to the left or to the right side of space. We found that addition problems were solved faster when the second operand appeared to the right than to the left side (Experiments 1 & 2). In contrast, subtraction problems were solved faster when the second operand appeared to the left than to the right side (Experiment 1). No operation-dependent spatial bias was observed in the same time window when the second operand was zero (Experiment 1), and no bias was observed when the operation was a multiplication (Experiment 2). Therefore, our results demonstrate that solving single-digit addition and subtraction, but not multiplication, is associated with horizontal shifts of attention. Our findings support the idea that mental movements to the left or right of a sequential representation of numbers are elicited during single-digit arithmetic.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Logical connectives (e.g., or, if, and not) are central to everyday conversation, and the inferences they generate are made with little effort in pragmatically sound situations. In contrast, the neural substrates of logical inference-making have been studied exclusively in abstract tasks where pragmatic concerns are minimal. Here, we used fMRI in an innovative design that employed narratives to investigate the interaction between logical reasoning and pragmatic processing in natural discourse. Each narrative contained three premises followed by a statement. In Fully-deductive stories, the statement confirmed a conclusion that followed from two steps of disjunction-elimination (e.g., Xavier considers Thursday, Friday, or Saturday for inviting his girlfriend out; he removes Thursday before he rejects Saturday and declares "I will invite her out for Friday"). In Implicated-premise stories, an otherwise identical narrative included three premises that twice removed a single option from consideration (i.e., Xavier rejects Thursday for two different reasons). The conclusion therefore necessarily prompts an implication (i.e., Xavier must have removed Saturday from consideration as well). We report two main findings. First, conclusions of Implicated-premise stories are associated with more activity than conclusions of Fully-deductive stories in a bilateral frontoparietal system, suggesting that these regions play a role in inferring an implicated premise. Second, brain connectivity between these regions increases with pragmatic abilities when reading conclusions in Implicated-premise stories. These findings suggest that pragmatic processing interacts with logical inference-making when understanding arguments in narrative discourse.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Greater skill in solving single-digit multiplication problems requires a progressive shift from a reliance on numerical to verbal mechanisms over development. Children with math learning disability (MD), however, are thought to suffer from a specific impairment in numerical mechanisms. Here we tested the hypothesis that this impairment might prevent MD children from transitioning towards verbal mechanisms when solving single-digit multiplication problems. Brain activations during multiplication problems were compared in MD and typically developing (TD) children (3rd to 7th graders) in numerical and verbal regions which were individuated by independent localizer tasks. We used small (e.g. 2 x 3) and large (e.g. 7 x 9) problems as these problems likely differ in their reliance on verbal versus numerical mechanisms. Results indicate that MD children have reduced activations in both the verbal (i.e. left inferior frontal gyrus and left middle temporal to superior temporal gyri) and the numerical (i.e. right superior parietal lobule including intra-parietal sulcus) regions suggesting that both mechanisms are impaired. Moreover, the only reliable activation observed for MD children was in the numerical region when solving small problems. This suggests that MD children could effectively engage numerical mechanisms only for the easier problems. Conversely, TD children showed a modulation of activation with problem size in the verbal regions. This suggests that TD children were effectively engaging verbal mechanisms for the easier problems. Moreover, TD children with better language skills were more effective at engaging verbal mechanisms. In conclusion, results suggest that the numerical and language related processes involved in solving multiplication problems are impaired in MD children.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We examine the relations of verbal and spatial working memory (WM) ability to the neural bases of arithmetic in school-age children. We independently localize brain regions subserving verbal versus spatial representations. For multiplication, higher verbal WM ability is associated with greater recruitment of the left temporal cortex, identified by the verbal localizer. For multiplication and subtraction, higher spatial WM ability is associated with greater recruitment of right parietal cortex, identified by the spatial localizer. Depending on their WM ability, children engage different neural systems that manipulate different representations to solve arithmetic problems.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Mastering single-digit arithmetic during school years is commonly thought to depend upon an increasing reliance on verbally memorized facts. An alternative model, however, posits that fluency in single-digit arithmetic might also be achieved via the increasing use of efficient calculation procedures. To test between these hypotheses, we used a cross-sectional design to measure the neural activity associated with single-digit subtraction and multiplication in 34 children from 2nd to 7th grade. The neural correlates of language and numerical processing were also identified in each child via localizer scans. Although multiplication and subtraction were undistinguishable in terms of behavior, we found a striking developmental dissociation in their neural correlates. First, we observed grade-related increases of activity for multiplication, but not for subtraction, in a language-related region of the left temporal cortex. Second, we found grade-related increases of activity for subtraction, but not for multiplication, in a region of the right parietal cortex involved in the procedural manipulation of numerical quantities. The present results suggest that fluency in simple arithmetic in children may be achieved by both increasing reliance on verbal retrieval and by greater use of efficient quantity-based procedures, depending on the operation.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Multiplication problems involving large numbers (e.g., 9 × 8) are more difficult to solve than problems involving small numbers (e.g., 2 × 3). Behavioral research indicates that this problem-size effect might be due to different factors across countries and educational systems. However, there is no neuroimaging evidence supporting this hypothesis. Here, we compared the neural correlates of the multiplication problem-size effect in adults educated in China and the United States. We found a greater neural problem-size effect in Chinese than American participants in bilateral superior temporal regions associated with phonological processing. However, we found a greater neural problem-size effect in American than Chinese participants in right intra-parietal sulcus (IPS) associated with calculation procedures. Therefore, while the multiplication problem-size effect might be a verbal retrieval effect in Chinese as compared to American participants, it may instead stem from the use of calculation procedures in American as compared to Chinese participants. Our results indicate that differences in educational practices might affect the neural bases of symbolic arithmetic.
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 05/2013; 7:189. DOI:10.3389/fnhum.2013.00189 · 3.63 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: It is now well established that communicators interpret others' mental states through what has been called "Theory of Mind" (ToM). From a linguistic-pragmatics perspective, this mentalizing ability is considered critical because it is assumed that the linguistic code in all utterances underdetermines the speaker's meaning, leaving a vital role for ToM to fill the gap. From a neuroscience perspective, understanding others' intentions has been shown to activate a neural ToM network that includes the right and left temporal parietal junction (rTPJ, lTPJ), the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) and the precuneus (PC). Surprisingly, however, there are no studies - to our knowledge - that aim to uncover a direct, on-line link between language processing and ToM through neuroimaging. This is why we focus on verbal irony, an obviously pragmatic phenomenon that compels a listener to detect the speaker's (dissociated, mocking) attitude (Wilson, 2009). In the present fMRI investigation, we compare participants' comprehension of 18 target sentences as contexts make them either ironic or literal. Consider an opera singer who tells her interlocutor: "Tonight we gave a superb performance!" when the performance in question was clearly awful (making the statement ironic) or very good (making the statement literal). We demonstrate that the ToM network becomes active while a participant is understanding verbal irony. Moreover, we demonstrate - through Psychophysiological Interactions (PPI) analyses - that ToM activity is directly linked with language comprehension processes. The paradigm, its predictions, and the reported results contrast dramatically with those from seven prior fMRI studies on irony.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: To enable unexpected shifts of covert visual spatial attention, a ventral attention network is thought to dampen activity in a dorsal attention network that maintains the current focus of attention. However, direct evidence to support this view is scarce. In the present study, we investigated this hypothesis by asking healthy young adults to perform a covert visual spatial attention task while their brain activity was recorded with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In each trial, participants discriminated the orientation of a target-colored letter in the cued visual field (valid trials) or, occasionally, in the uncued visual field (invalid trials). Consistent with prior work, the ventral attention network was more active in invalid trials than in valid trials. Most importantly, functional connectivity analyses revealed that an increase of activity in the right inferior frontal gyrus (a key region of the ventral attention network) was linked to smaller increases of activity in (a) the right inferior parietal lobe (a key region of the dorsal attention network) and (b) the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (other regions enabling the control of attention) in invalid trials, relative to valid trials. These findings provide novel support for the view that key regions of the ventral attention network help to enable unexpected shifts of covert visual spatial attention by dampening activity in brain regions that participate in maintaining the current focus of attention.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: It has long been suggested that transitive reasoning relies on spatial representations in the posterior parietal cortex (PPC). Previous neuroimaging studies, however, have always focused on linear arguments, such as "John is taller than Tom, Tom is taller than Chris, therefore John is taller than Chris." Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we demonstrate here that verbal representations contribute to transitive reasoning when it involves set-inclusion relations (e.g., "All Tulips are Flowers, All Flowers are Plants, therefore All Tulips are Plants"). In the present study, such arguments were found to engage verbal processing regions of the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and left PPC that were identified in an independent localizer task. Specifically, activity in these verbal regions increased as the number of relations increased in set-inclusion arguments. Importantly, this effect was specific to set-inclusion arguments because left IFG and left PPC were not differentially engaged when the number of relations increased in linear arguments. Instead, such an increase was linked to decreased activity in a spatial processing region of the right PPC that was identified in an independent localizer task. Therefore, both verbal and spatial representations can underlie transitive reasoning, but their engagement depends upon the structure of the argument.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: It has been proposed that recent cultural inventions such as symbolic arithmetic recycle evolutionary older neural mechanisms. A central assumption of this hypothesis is that the degree to which a preexisting mechanism is recycled depends on the degree of similarity between its initial function and the novel task. To test this assumption, we investigated whether the brain region involved in magnitude comparison in the intraparietal sulcus (IPS), localized by a numerosity comparison task, is recruited to a greater degree by arithmetic problems that involve number comparison (single-digit subtractions) than by problems that involve retrieving number facts from memory (single-digit multiplications). Our results confirmed that subtractions are associated with greater activity in the IPS than multiplications, whereas multiplications elicit greater activity than subtractions in regions involved in verbal processing including the middle temporal gyrus (MTG) and inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) that were localized by a phonological processing task. Pattern analyses further indicated that the neural mechanisms more active for subtraction than multiplication in the IPS overlap with those involved in numerosity comparison and that the strength of this overlap predicts interindividual performance in the subtraction task. These findings provide novel evidence that elementary arithmetic relies on the cooption of evolutionary older neural circuits.
Human Brain Mapping 11/2011; 32(11):1932-47. DOI:10.1002/hbm.21159 · 5.97 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Over the course of the past decade, contradictory claims have been made regarding the neural bases of deductive reasoning. Researchers have been puzzled by apparent inconsistencies in the literature. Some have even questioned the effectiveness of the methodology used to study the neural bases of deductive reasoning. However, the idea that neuroimaging findings are inconsistent is not based on any quantitative evidence. Here, we report the results of a quantitative meta-analysis of 28 neuroimaging studies of deductive reasoning published between 1997 and 2010, combining 382 participants. Consistent areas of activations across studies were identified using the multilevel kernel density analysis method. We found that results from neuroimaging studies are more consistent than what has been previously assumed. Overall, studies consistently report activations in specific regions of a left fronto-parietal system, as well as in the left BG. This brain system can be decomposed into three subsystems that are specific to particular types of deductive arguments: relational, categorical, and propositional. These dissociations explain inconstancies in the literature. However, they are incompatible with the notion that deductive reasoning is supported by a single cognitive system relying either on visuospatial or rule-based mechanisms. Our findings provide critical insight into the cognitive organization of deductive reasoning and need to be accounted for by cognitive theories.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: According to the default-mode interference hypothesis, suboptimal performance in tasks requiring selective attention occurs when off-task processing (e.g., mind wandering) supported by default-mode regions interferes with on-task processing (e.g., attention) enabled by task-positive regions. In the present functional MRI study, we therefore investigated whether suboptimal performance in a selective attention task was linked to heightened interactions between a key default-mode region (the posterior cingulate cortex; PCC) and a key task-positive region (the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex; DLPFC). We also investigated whether heightened interactions between the PCC and the left DLPFC were linked to enhanced future performance, consistent with prior data suggesting that such interactions index adaptive changes to the cognitive system. In line with both of these predictions, increases of current-trial functional connectivity between the PCC and the left DLPFC were linked to increases of response time in the current trial (i.e., suboptimal performance), but to decreases of response time in the next trial (i.e., enhanced performance). This double dissociation provides novel support for the default-mode interference hypothesis. Moreover, it suggests the possibility that, in at least some cases, default-mode interference indexes processes that optimize future performance.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Although variations of response time (RT) within a particular experimental condition are typically ignored, they may sometimes reflect meaningful changes in the efficiency of cognitive and neural processes. In the present study, we investigated whether trial-by-trial variations of response time (RT) in a cross-modal selective attention task were associated with variations of functional connectivity between brain regions that are thought to underlie attention. Sixteen healthy young adults performed an audiovisual selective attention task, which involved attending to a relevant visual letter while ignoring an irrelevant auditory letter, as we recorded their brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In line with predictions, variations of RT were associated with variations of functional connectivity between the anterior cingulate cortex and various other brain regions that are posited to underlie attentional control, such as the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and bilateral regions of the posterior parietal cortex. They were also linked to variations of functional connectivity between anatomically early and anatomically late regions of the relevant-modality visual cortex whose communication is thought to be modulated by attentional control processes. By revealing that variations of RT in a selective attention task are linked to variations of functional connectivity in the attentional network, the present findings suggest that variations of attention may contribute to trial-by-trial fluctuations of behavioral performance.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Variations of response time (RT) in selective attention tasks are often associated with variations of activity and functional connectivity in sensory cortices that process relevant stimuli. Here, we investigated whether such relationships are influenced by spatial attention. To investigate this hypothesis, we asked fourteen healthy adults to perform a covert spatial attention task, which made use of bilateral stimulus displays, while we recorded their brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). As expected, activity in the middle occipital gyrus increased when spatial attention was directed to the contralateral (versus the ipsilateral) visual field. Surprisingly, variations of RT were not associated with variations in the magnitude of this attentional enhancement. As predicted, however, they were linked to opposing variations of functional connectivity between middle occipital regions contralateral (but not ispilateral) to the attended visual field and the left fusiform gyrus, which is thought to figure prominently in the perceptual processing of visually presented letters. These findings suggest that trial-by-trial variations of RT reflect, at least partially, trial-by-trial variations in the extent to which spatial attention enhances functional connectivity between sensory regions that process relevant stimuli.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Deductive reasoning is traditionally viewed as a unitary process involving either rule-based or visuo-spatial mechanisms. However, there is a disagreement in the neuroimaging literature on whether the data support one alternative over the other. Here we test the hypothesis that discrepancies in the literature result from the reasoning materials themselves. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we measure brain activity of participants while they integrate the premises of conditional arguments (primarily Modus Tollens: If P then Q; not-Q) and Relational Syllogisms (i.e., linear arguments of the sort P is to the left of Q; Q is to the left of R). We find that reasoning with Modus Tollens activates the left inferior frontal gyrus to a greater extent than the Relational Syllogisms. In contrast, the Relational Syllogisms engage the right temporo-parieto-occipital junction more than conditional arguments. This suggests that conditional reasoning relies more on so-called syntactic processes than relational reasoning, while relational reasoning may rely on visuo-spatial processes and mental imagery more than conditional reasoning. This investigative approach, together with its results, clarifies some apparently inconsistent findings in this literature by showing that the nature of the logical argument, whether it is relational or conditional, determines which neural system is engaged.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: It is a familiar and intuitive notion that human numerical and logical reasoning skills are tightly related. However, very little is known about the interaction between numerical knowledge and logical reasoning in the brain. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging in healthy subjects, we investigated ordered relations as they are expressed in number (4 is greater than 2) and in transitive reasoning (A is to the left of C after receiving; A is to the left of B; B is to the left of C) in order to determine the extent to which the same neural substrates support both. We found that representing an ordered series verbally learned by transitive reasoning draws on the representations of numbers in the anterior intraparietal sulcus. We further observed that, unlike numbers, transitive series are additionally encoded in the basal ganglia-dopamine system. Intraparietal and basal ganglia mechanisms are not active to the same extent at the same time. Although the intraparietal representations of number preferentially supports a verbal transitive series soon after learning, the basal ganglia are engaged when the series is well practiced. This finding suggests that the transient activation of number representations supports the representation of verbal transitive series until their late encoding in the basal ganglia-dopamine system by associative reinforcement mechanisms.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Relational reasoning (A > B, B > C, therefore A > C) shares a number of similarities with numerical cognition, including a common behavioural signature, the symbolic distance effect. Just as reaction times for evaluating relational conclusions decrease as the distance between two ordered objects increases, people need less time to compare two numbers when they are distant (e.g., 2 and 8) than when they are close (e.g., 3 and 4). Given that some remain doubtful about such analogical representations in relational reasoning, we determine whether numerical cognition and relational reasoning have other overlapping behavioural effects. Here, using relational reasoning problems that require the alignment of six items, we provide evidence showing that the subjects' linear mental representation affects motor performance when evaluating conclusions. Items accessible from the left part of a linear representation are evaluated faster when the response is made by the left, rather than the right, hand and the reverse is observed for items accessible from the right part of the linear representation. This effect, observed with the prepositions to the left of and to the right of as well as with above and below, is analogous to the SNARC (Spatial Numerical Association of Response Codes) effect, which is characterized by an interaction between magnitude of numbers and side of response.