Thelanguage-numberinterfaceinthebrain: Acomplex parametric study of quantifiers and quantities

Stefan Heim*, Katrin Amunts, Dan Drai, Simon B. Eickhoff, Sarah Hautvast, Yosef Grodzinsky

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The neural bases for numerosity and language are of perennial interest. In monkeys, neural separation of numerical Estimation and numerical Comparison has been demonstrated. As linguistic and numerical knowledge can only be compared in humans, we used a new fMRI paradigm in an attempt to dissociate Estimation from Comparison, and at the same time uncover the neural relation between numerosity and language. We used complex stimuli: images depicting a proportion between quantities of blue and yellow circles were coupled with sentences containing quantifiers that described them (e.g., "most/few of the circles are yellow"). Participants verified sentences against images. Both Estimation and Comparison recruited adjacent, partially overlapping bi-hemispheric fronto-parietal regions. Additional semantic analysis of positive vs. negative quantifiers involving the interpretation of quantity and numerosity specifically recruited left area 45. The anatomical proximity between numerosity regions and those involved in semantic analysis points to subtle links between the number system and language. Results fortify the homology of Estimation and Comparison between humans and monkeys.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberArticle 4
JournalFrontiers in Evolutionary Neuroscience
Volume4
Issue numberMAR
DOIs
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • BA 45
  • Broca's area
  • Estimation
  • Numerosity
  • Semantics
  • fMRI
  • intraparietal sulcus

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