Magnitude Processing in the Brain: An fMRI Study of Time, Space, and Numerosity as a Shared Cortical System

  • Skagerlund K
  • Karlsson T
  • Träff U
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© 2016 Skagerlund, Karlsson and Träff. Continuous dimensions, such as time, space, and numerosity, have been suggested to be subserved by common neurocognitive mechanisms. Neuroimaging studies that have investigated either one or two dimensions simultaneously have consistently identified neural correlates in the parietal cortex of the brain. However, studies investigating the degree of neural overlap across several dimensions are inconclusive, and it remains an open question whether a potential overlap can be conceptualized as a neurocognitive magnitude processing system. The current functional magnetic resonance imaging study investigated the potential neurocognitive overlap across three dimensions. A sample of adults (N = 24) performed three different magnitude processing tasks: a temporal discrimination task, a number discrimination task, and a line length discrimination task. A conjunction analysis revealed several overlapping neural substrates across multiple magnitude dimensions, and we argue that these cortical nodes comprise a distributed magnitude processing system. Key components of this predominantly right-lateralized system include the intraparietal sulcus, insula, premotor cortex/SMA, and inferior frontal gyrus. Together with previous research highlighting intraparietal sulcus, our results suggest that the insula also is a core component of the magnitude processing system. We discuss the functional role of each of these components in the magnitude processing system and suggest that further research of this system may provide insight into the etiology of neurodevelopmental disorders where cognitive deficits in magnitude processing are manifest.




Skagerlund, K., Karlsson, T., & Träff, U. (2016). Magnitude Processing in the Brain: An fMRI Study of Time, Space, and Numerosity as a Shared Cortical System. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 10.

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