Specialization of the Right Intraparietal Sulcus for Processing Mathematics During Development

Cereb Cortex. 2017 Sep 1;27(9):4436-4446. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhw246.


Mathematical ability, especially perception of numbers and performance of arithmetics, is known to rely on the activation of intraparietal sulcus (IPS). However, reasoning ability and working memory, 2 highly associated abilities also activate partly overlapping regions. Most studies aimed at localizing mathematical function have used group averages, where individual variability is averaged out, thus confounding the anatomical specificity when localizing cognitive functions. Here, we analyze the functional anatomy of the intraparietal cortex by using individual analysis of subregions of IPS based on how they are structurally connected to frontal, parietal, and occipital cortex. Analysis of cortical thickness showed that the right anterior IPS, defined by its connections to the frontal lobe, was associated with both visuospatial working memory, and mathematics in 6-year-old children. This region specialized during development to be specifically related to mathematics, but not visuospatial working memory in adolescents and adults. This could be an example of interactive specialization, where interacting with the environment in combination with interactions between cortical regions leads from a more general role of right anterior IPS in spatial processing, to a specialization of this region for mathematics.

Keywords: DTI; cortical thickness; development; interactive specialization; mathematics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Child
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / growth & development
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Male
  • Mathematics / methods
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Parietal Lobe / growth & development*
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology
  • Young Adult