Behavioral equivalence, but not neural equivalence--neural evidence of alternative strategies in mathematical thinking

Nat Neurosci. 2004 Nov;7(11):1193-4. doi: 10.1038/nn1337. Epub 2004 Oct 10.


In a functional magnetic resonance imaging study, we investigated how people solve mathematically equivalent problems presented in two alternative formats: verbal, story format or symbolic, equation format. Although representation format had no effect on behavior, anterior prefrontal activation was greater in the story condition and posterior parietal activation was greater in the equation condition. These results show that there exist alternative neural pathways that implement different and yet equally efficient problem-solving strategies.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Behavior / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Mathematics*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Parietal Lobe / blood supply
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology
  • Problem Solving / physiology*
  • Reaction Time


  • Oxygen