Cortical activation during retrieval of arithmetical facts and actual calculation: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study

Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2000 Aug;54(4):479-85. doi: 10.1046/j.1440-1819.2000.00739.x.


By using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the neural substrates involved in mental recitation of the single-digit multiplication table and serial subtraction were studied. The former depends mostly on well-learned arithmetical facts, while the latter requires arithmetic processing. Activation during each task was compared with that in a number counting control. During the recitation of single-digit multiplication, the activated regions included the area lying along the left intraparietal sulcus, the premotor and supplementary motor areas, and the posterior portion of the left inferior frontal gyrus. The areas activated during serial subtraction included these areas as well as the bilateral prefrontal and right parietal areas. From the results obtained during retrieval of the multiplication table in this study and previous studies, it was concluded that semantic memory of the multiplication table is stored in the area lying along the intraparietal sulcus and that the frontal areas play an executive role in utilizing the semantic memory of arithmetical facts. It was assumed that the arithmetical facts requiring actual calculation are also stored in the same region. The additional activation during serial subtraction compared with the activation during retrieval of the multiplication table is probably due to the processes of actual calculation. These processes include proper alignment of digits, which may have caused the right parietal activation, and maintaining digits needed for the mental serial subtractions, which may have caused the bilateral prefrontal activation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Mathematics
  • Memory / physiology
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology
  • Semantics