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Numeral Hotspot

May 7, 2013

Scientists have discovered the area of the brain dedicated to recognizing numerals.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

A brain for numbers. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Researchers have pinpointed a tiny hotspot in the brain dedicated to the recognition of numerals. By directly recording the brain’s electrical activity, Stanford University Medical Center neuroscientist Josef Parvizi and his colleagues determined that this area responds specifically to numeric symbols, rather than to numbers that are spelled out or that sound like other words.

JOSEF PARVIZI (Stanford University Medical Center):

We found that this numeral hotspot is almost like an island within a large sea of neuronal populations created by nature to process this type of stimuli.

HIRSHON:

He says this illustrates how evolution has prepared the brain for rapid learning, since no one has an innate ability to recognize numerals. He adds that the findings have the potential to help the nearly 25% of adults who have some type of difficulty processing numbers. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS the science society.  

About a quarter of adults have problems with numeracy. This makes it harder for them to understand basic mathematical concepts. An area of the brain dedicated to numeral recognition may play a role. (Jupiter Images)