Semantic Apparatus – Algebra dissociates from arithmetic in the brain semantic network

Cited by Lee Sonogan

Are overlaps among {algebraic geometry, arithmetic geometry, algebraic  number theory} growing? - MathOverflow

Abstract by Dazhi Cheng,Mengyi Li,Jiaxin Cui,Li Wang,Naiyi Wang,Liangyuan Ouyang,Xiaozhuang Wang,Xuejun Bai &Xinlin Zhou 


Mathematical expressions mainly include arithmetic (such as 8 − (1 + 3)) and algebra (such as a − (b + c)). Previous studies have shown that both algebraic processing and arithmetic involved the bilateral parietal brain regions. Although previous studies have revealed that algebra was dissociated from arithmetic, the neural bases of the dissociation between algebraic processing and arithmetic is still unclear. The present study uses functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to identify the specific brain networks for algebraic and arithmetic processing.


Using fMRI, this study scanned 30 undergraduates and directly compared the brain activation during algebra and arithmetic. Brain activations, single-trial (item-wise) interindividual correlation and mean-trial interindividual correlation related to algebra processing were compared with those related to arithmetic. The functional connectivity was analyzed by a seed-based region of interest (ROI)-to-ROI analysis.


Brain activation analyses showed that algebra elicited greater activation in the angular gyrus and arithmetic elicited greater activation in the bilateral supplementary motor area, left insula, and left inferior parietal lobule. Interindividual single-trial brain-behavior correlation revealed significant brain-behavior correlations in the semantic network, including the middle temporal gyri, inferior frontal gyri, dorsomedial prefrontal cortices, and left angular gyrus, for algebra. For arithmetic, the significant brain-behavior correlations were located in the phonological network, including the precentral gyrus and supplementary motor area, and in the visuospatial network, including the bilateral superior parietal lobules. For algebra, significant positive functional connectivity was observed between the visuospatial network and semantic network, whereas for arithmetic, significant positive functional connectivity was observed only between the visuospatial network and phonological network.


These findings suggest that algebra relies on the semantic network and conversely, arithmetic relies on the phonological and visuospatial networks.

Publication: Behavioral and Brain Functions (Peer-Reviewed Journal)

Pub Date: 7 Jan, 2022 Doi:

Keywords: Algebra Arithmetic Semantic network Phonological network Visuospatial network (Plenty more sections and references in this research article)

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