Castaldi E., Vignaud A., Eger E. (2019)

Mapping numerical perception and operations in relation to functional and anatomical landmarks of human parietal cortex

Human functional imaging has identified the middle part of the intraparietal sulcus (IPS) as an important brain substrate for different types of numerical tasks. This area is often equated with the macaque ventral intraparietal area (VIP) where neuronal selectivity for non-symbolic numbers is found. However, the low spatial resolution and whole-brain averaging analysis performed in most fMRI studies limit the extent to which an exact correspondence of activation in different numerical tasks with specific sub-regions of the IPS can be established. Here we disentangled the functional neuroanatomy of numerical perception and operations (comparison and calculation) by acquiring high-resolution 7T fMRI data in a group of human adults, and relating the activations in different numerical contrasts to anatomical and functional landmarks on the cortical surface. Our results reveal a functional heterogeneity within human intraparietal cortex where the visual field map representations in superior/medial parts of IPS and superior parietal gyrus are involved predominantly in numerosity perception, whereas numerical operations predominantly recruit lateral/inferior parts of IPS. Since calculation and comparison-related activity fell mainly outside the field map representations considered the functional equivalent of the monkey VIP/LIP complex, the areas most activated during such numerical operations in humans are likely different from VIP.