Researchers of the Jena University (Germany) and of the Jena University Hospital located an important region for the visual processing of numbers in the human brain and showed that it is active in both hemispheres. In the 'Journal of Neuroscience' the scientists published high resolution magnetic resonance recordings of this region. (DOI:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2129-15.2016).
The human brain works with division of labour. Although our thinking organ excels in displaying amazing flexibility and plasticity, typically different areas of the brain take over different tasks. While words and language are mainly being processed in the left hemisphere, the right hemisphere is responsible for numerical reasoning.
According to previous findings, this division of labour originates from the fact that the first steps in the processing of letters and numbers are also located individually in the different hemispheres. But this is not the case, at least not when it comes to the visual processing of numbers.
Neuroscientists of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena and of the Jena University Hospital discovered that the visual processing of numbers takes place in a so-called 'visual number form area' (NFA) – in fact in both hemispheres alike. The Jena scientists were the first to publish high resolution magnetic resonance recordings showing the activity in this region of the brain of healthy test persons. The area is normally difficult to get access to.
In their study Dr. Mareike Grotheer and Prof. Dr. Gyula Kovács from the Institute for Psychology of Jena University as well as Dr. Karl-Heinz Herrmann from the Department of Radiology (IDIR) of the Jena University Hospital presented subjects with numbers, letters and pictures of everyday objects. Meanwhile the participants’ brain activity was recorded using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Thus the researchers were able to clearly identify the region in which the visual processing of numbers takes place. The small area at the underside of the left and right temporal lobe reacted with increased activity at the presentation of numbers. Letters and other images but also false numbers lead to a significantly lower brain activity in this area.
Although the Jena team already knew from other scientists' previous research where they had to look for the area, a lot of developmental work went into the newly published story. “This region has been a kind of blind spot in the human brain until now,“ Mareike Grotheer says. And here is why: Hidden underneath the ear and the acoustic meatus, surrounded by bone and air, previous MRI scans showed a number of artefacts and thus obstructed detailed research.
For their study the Jena scientists used a high-performance 3 tesla MRI scanner of the Institute of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology (IDIR) of the Jena University Hospital. They recorded three-dimensional images of the brain of the test subjects at an unusually high spatial resolution and hence with only very few artefacts.
In addition these recordings were spatially smoothed whereby the remaining 'white noise' could be removed. This approach will help other scientists to investigate a part of the brain that until now had been nearly inaccessible. “In this region not only numbers are being processed but also faces and objects,“ Prof. Kovács states.
Grotheer M, Herrmann KH, and Kovács G.: Neuroimaging Evidence of a Bilateral Representation for Visually Presented Numbers, The Journal of Neuroscience 2016, 36(1): 88-97, DOI:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2129-15.2016
Prof. Dr. Gyula Kovács, Dr. Mareike Grotheer
Institute of Psychology
Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Leutragraben 1, 07743 Jena
Phone: ++49 3641 / 945936, ++49 3641 / 45983
Email: gyula.kovacs[at]uni-jena.de, mareike.grotheer[at]uni-jena.de
Dr. Ute Schönfelder | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute
Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy