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Human brain mapping





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Behavioral evidence has shown that when performing a nonsymbolic number comparison task (e.g., deciding which of two dot arrays contains more dots), participants' responses are sensitive to affected by both numerical (e.g., number of items) and non-numerical magnitudes (i.e., area, density, etc.). Thus far it is unclear what brain circuits support this process of accumulating non-numerical variables during nonsymbolic number processing. To investigate this, 21 adult participants were asked to engage in a dot comparison task. To measure the neural correlates of accumulating numerical and non-numerical variables, we manipulated the number of the non-numerical magnitudes that were congruent (correlated with number) or incongruent (anticorrelated with number). In a control task, participants were asked to choose the darker of two gray rectangles (brightness task). The tasks were matched in terms of their difficulty. The results of a whole brain analysis for regions sensitive to the congruity of numerical and non-numerical magnitudes revealed a region in the right inferior frontal gyrus (rIFG). Activation in this region was found to be correlated with the relative congruency of numerical and non-numerical magnitudes. In contrast, this region was not modulated by difficulty of the brightness control task. Accordingly in view of these findings, we suggest that the rIFG supports the accumulation of non-numerical magnitudes that are positively correlated with number. Therefore taken together, this study reveals a brain region whose pattern of activity is influenced by the congruency between numerical and non-numerical variables during nonsymbolic number judgments. Hum Brain Mapp 38:4908-4921, 2017. © 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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