Superior digit memory of abacus experts: an event-related functional MRI study

Neuroreport. 2002 Dec 3;13(17):2187-91. doi: 10.1097/00001756-200212030-00005.


Abacus experts exhibit superior short-term memory for digits, but the underlying neurophysiological mechanism remains unknown. Using event-related fMRI, we examined the brain activity of abacus experts and non-experts during the memory retention period of a delayed match-to-sample task using digits as stimuli. In controls, activity was greater in cortical areas related to verbal working memory, including Broca's area. In contrast, in experts, activity was greater in cortical areas related to visuo-spatial working memory, including the bilateral superior frontal sulcus and superior parietal lobule. This provides neurophysiological evidence that abacus experts utilize a visuo-spatial representation for digit memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Genetic Variation / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Mathematics*
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / anatomy & histology
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Space Perception / physiology