Numerosity and duration processing have been modeled by a functional mechanism taking the form of an accumulator working under two different operative modes. Separate investigations of their cerebral substrates have revealed partly similar patterns of activation, mainly in parietal and frontal areas. However, the precise cerebral implementation of the accumulator model within these areas has not yet been directly assessed. In this study, we asked participants to categorize the numerosity of flashed dot sequences or the duration of single dot displays, and we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the common neural correlates of these processes. The results reveal a large right-lateralized fronto-parietal network, including the intraparietal sulcus (IPS) and areas in the precentral, middle and superior frontal gyri, which is activated by both numerosity and duration processing. Complementary psychophysiological interaction (PPI) analyses show a functional connectivity between the right IPS and the frontal areas in both tasks, whereas the right IPS was functionally connected to the left IPS and the right precentral area in the numerosity categorization task only. We propose that the right IPS underlies a common magnitude processing system for both numerosity and duration, possibly corresponding to the encoding and accumulation stages of the accumulator model, whereas the frontal areas are involved in subsequent working-memory storage and decision-making processes.
Copyright © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.