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Scientists pinpoint brain’s area for numeral recognition

Scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine have determined the precise anatomical coordinates of a brain “hot spot,” measuring only about one-fifth of an inch across, that is preferentially activated when people view the ordinary numerals we learn early on in elementary school, like “6” or “38.”

“This is the first-ever study to show the existence of a cluster of nerve cells in the human brain that specializes in processing numerals,” said Josef Parvizi, MD, PhD, associate professor of neurology and neurological sciences and director of Stanford’s Human Intracranial Cognitive Electrophysiology Program. “In this small nerve-cell population, we saw a much bigger response to numerals than to very similar-looking, similar-sounding and similar-meaning symbols.”

Funding: The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health (grant NS0783961), the Stanford NeuroVentures Program and the School of Medicine’s Medical Scholars Research Program. Other co-authors were postdoctoral scholars Dora Hermes, PhD, Brett Foster, PhD, Mohammad Dastjerdi, PhD, and Jonathan Winawer, PhD; research assistant Vinitha Rangarajan; and neurosurgery resident Kai Miller, MD.

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