Sunday, March 6, 2016

Big Numbers, Small Numbers Are Processed In Different Sides Of The Brain

From Science 2.0:
Left and right brained makes a difference, even for those good at math. Large numbers are processed in the left side of the brain while small numbers are processed in the right side of the brain, according to a new paper.

The brain is divided into two halves - the left side controls the right half of the body, and vice versa. Generally, one side of the brain is more dominant than the other. For example, people who are right-handed tend to have more activity in the left side of their brains.

Previous studies have highlighted the general region where the brain handles numbers - in an area called the fronto-parietal cortex, which runs approximately from the top of the head to just above the ear. But scientists are in the dark about how exactly the brain unpicks and processes numbers. However, previous observations from stroke patients, who often suffer damage to the right side of their brains, have given clues that suggest large numbers and small numbers are handled on different sides of the brain.
Right Cold (Right side of the brain activated) Baseline shows the participants drawing a clock blindfolded. Caloric-only shows the clocks drawn by the participants as they had cold water trickled into their right ear. Caloric plus RIV shows the clocks drawn by the participants as they had cold water trickled into their right ear and watched vertical or horizontal lines through goggles. In the latter two conditions the volunteers showed a preference for small numbers. credit: Imperial College London
Dr. Qadeer Arshad, lead author of the study from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, said, "Following early insights from stroke patients we wanted to find out exactly how the brain processes numbers. In our new study, in which we used healthy volunteers, we found the left side processes large numbers, and the right processes small numbers. So for instance if you were looking at a clock, the numbers one to six would be processed on the right side of the brain, and six to twelve would be processed on the left."

In their study, the team temporally deactivated either the left or right side of the brain of healthy volunteers. They did this using a complex technique – the volunteers were asked to wear goggles that showed them a picture of either a horizontal or vertical line. At the same time, the participants underwent a procedure called the caloric reflex test. This is commonly used to diagnose ear and balance disorders and involves trickling either hot or cold water into a person’s ears....MORE