Positron emission tomography was used to localize the cerebral networks specifically involved in three basic numerical processes: arabic numeral processing, numerical magnitude comparison, and retrieval of simple addition facts. Relative cerebral blood flow changes were measured while normal volunteers were resting with eyes closed, making physical judgment on nonnumerical characters or arabic digits, comparing, or adding the same digits. Processing arabic digits bilaterally produced a large nonspecific activation of occipito-parietal areas, as well as a specific activation of the right anterior insula. Comparison and simple addition fact retrieval revealed a fronto-parietal network involving mainly the left intraparietal sulcus, the superior parietal lobule and the precentral gyrus. Comparison also activated, but to a lesser extent, the right superior parietal lobe, whereas addition also activated the orbito-frontal areas and the anterior insula in the right hemisphere. Implications for current anatomo-functional models of numerical cognition are drawn.

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