Is 2+2=4? Meta-analyses of brain areas needed for numbers and calculations

Neuroimage. 2011 Feb 1;54(3):2382-93. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.10.009. Epub 2010 Oct 12.


Most of us use numbers daily for counting, estimating quantities or formal mathematics, yet despite their importance our understanding of the brain correlates of these processes is still evolving. A neurofunctional model of mental arithmetic, proposed more than a decade ago, stimulated a substantial body of research in this area. Using quantitative meta-analyses of fMRI studies we identified brain regions concordant among studies that used number and calculation tasks. These tasks elicited activity in a set of common regions such as the inferior parietal lobule; however, the regions in which they differed were most notable, such as distinct areas of prefrontal cortices for specific arithmetic operations. Given the current knowledge, we propose an updated topographical brain atlas of mental arithmetic with improved interpretative power.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Atlases as Topic
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Mathematics*
  • Mental Processes / physiology*
  • Research Design
  • Stereotaxic Techniques
  • Young Adult