Neural substrates of mathematical reasoning: A functional magnetic resonance imaging study of neocortical activation during performance of the necessary arithmetic operations test

Vivek Prabhakaran, Bart Rypma, John D E Gabrieli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

72 Scopus citations


Brain activation was examined using functional magnetic resonance imaging during mathematical problem solving in 7 young healthy participants. Problems were selected from the Necessary Arithmetic Operations Test (NAOT; R. B. Ekstrom, J. W. French, H. H. Harman, & D. Dermen, 1976). Participants solved 3 types of problems: 2-operation problems requiring mathematical reasoning and text processing, 1-operation problems requiring text processing but minimal mathematical reasoning, and 0-operation problems requiring minimal text processing and controlling sensorimotor demands of the NAOT problems. Two-operation problems yielded major activations in bilateral frontal regions similar to those found in other problem-solving tasks, indicating that the processes mediated by these regions subserve many forms of reasoning. Findings suggest a dissociation in mathematical problem solving between reasoning, mediated by frontal cortex, and text processing, mediated by temporal cortex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-127
Number of pages13
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2001


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology

Cite this