Abstract

Engagement of posterior parietal cortex (PPC) in visuospatial attention and arithmetic processing has been extensively documented using neuroimaging methods. Numerous studies have suggested a close connection between visuospatial attention and arithmetic processing. However, given that the extant evidence in humans stem from neuroimaging methods that have relied on group analyses without much knowledge about the profile of neurophysiological engagement within localized neuronal populations at the individual brain level. Hence, it has remained unclear if the overlap of two functions in the PPC is the product of averaging, or they truly stem from a common profile of activity within the same neuronal populations in the human PPC. In the current study, we leveraged the anatomical precision and high signal-to-noise ratio of intracranial electrocorticography and probed the engagement of discrete PPC neuronal populations in seven neurosurgical patients (n = 179 total PPC sites covered; 26 sites in average per individual participant). We aimed to study the extent of parietal activations within each individual brain during visuospatial attention versus arithmetic tasks and the profile of electrophysiological responses within a given recording site during these tasks. Our findings indicated that about 40% of PPC sites did not respond to either visuospatial attention or arithmetic stimuli—or episodic memory conditions that were used as an adjunct control condition. Of those that were activated during either visuospatial attention or arithmetic conditions, a large majority showed overlapping responses during both visuospatial attention and arithmetic conditions. Most interestingly, responses during arithmetic processing were greatest in sites along the intraparietal sulcus region showing preference to contralateral, instead of ipsilateral, visual probes in the visuospatial attention task. Our results provide novel data about the relationship between numerical and spatial orientation at the neuronal population level and shed light on the complex functional organization of the PPC that could not be attained with noninvasive methods.

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