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Integral calculus problem solving: an fMRI investigation

Krueger, Franka; Spampinato, Maria Vittoriac; Pardini, Matteod; Pajevic, Sinisab; Wood, Jacqueline N.a; Weiss, George H.b; Landgraf, Steffene; Grafman, Jordana

doi: 10.1097/WNR.0b013e328303fd85

Only a subset of adults acquires specific advanced mathematical skills, such as integral calculus. The representation of more sophisticated mathematical concepts probably evolved from basic number systems; however its neuroanatomical basis is still unknown. Using fMRI, we investigated the neural basis of integral calculus while healthy participants were engaged in an integration verification task. Solving integrals activated a left-lateralized cortical network including the horizontal intraparietal sulcus, posterior superior parietal lobe, posterior cingulate gyrus, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Our results indicate that solving of more abstract and sophisticated mathematical facts, such as calculus integrals, elicits a pattern of brain activation similar to the cortical network engaged in basic numeric comparison, quantity manipulation, and arithmetic problem solving.

aCognitive Neuroscience Section, NINDS

bMathematical and Statistical Computing Laboratory, Division of Computational Bioscience, Center for Information Technology, Bethesda, Maryland

cDepartment of Radiology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, USA

dDepartment of Neurosciences, Ophthalmology and Genetics, University of Genoa, Genoa, Italy

ePierre & Marie Curie University, Paris, France

Correspondence to Dr Jordan Grafman, PhD, Cognitive Neuroscience Section, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Bldg. 10, Room 7D43, MSC 1440, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-1440, USA

Tel: +1 301 496 0220; fax: +1 301 480 2909; e-mail:

Received 27 February 2008; accepted 3 April 2008

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.