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Characterizing the neurocognitive mechanisms of arithmetic

Abstract : Arithmetic is one of the most important cultural inventions of humanity, however we still lack a comprehensive understanding of how the brain computes additions and subtractions. In the first study, I used a novel behavioral method based on trajectory tracking capable of dissecting the succession of processing stages involved in arithmetic computations. Results supported a model whereby single-digit arithmetic is computed by a stepwise displacement on a spatially organized mental number line, starting with the larger operand and incrementally adding or subtracting the smaller operand. In a second study, I analyzed electrophysiological signals recorded from the human cortex while subjects solved addition problems. I found that the overall activity in the intraparietal sulcus increased as the operands got larger, providing evidence for its involvement in arithmetic computation and decision-making. Surprisingly, sites within the posterior inferior temporal gyrus showed an initial burst of activity that decreased as a function of problem-size, suggesting an engagement in the early identification of the calculation difficulty. Lastly, I recorded magnetoencephalography signals while subjects verified additions and subtractions. By applying machine learning techniques, I investigated the temporal evolution of the representational codes of the operands and provided a first comprehensive picture of a cascade of unfolding processing stages underlying arithmetic calculation. Overall, this dissertation provides several contributions to our knowledge about how elementary mathematical concepts are implemented in the brain.
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  • HAL Id : tel-01893192, version 1

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Pedro Pinheiro Chagas Munhos de Sa Moreira. Characterizing the neurocognitive mechanisms of arithmetic. Cognitive Sciences. Université Pierre et Marie Curie - Paris VI, 2017. English. ⟨NNT : 2017PA066542⟩. ⟨tel-01893192⟩

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