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Both hemispheres of the brain process numbers

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.

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.

Magnetic resonance images of the human brain
Magnetic resonance images of the human brain. Researchers of the Jena University and the Jena University Hospital discovered that the visual processing of numbers takes place in both hemispheres of the brain
Image Credit: Jan-Peter Kasper/FSU)