Hemispheric asymmetries in processing numerical meaning in arithmetic

Selim Jang, Daniel C. Hyde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hemispheric asymmetries in arithmetic have been hypothesized based on neuropsychological, developmental, and neuroimaging work. However, it has been challenging to separate asymmetries related to arithmetic specifically, from those associated general cognitive or linguistic processes. Here we attempt to experimentally isolate the processing of numerical meaning in arithmetic problems from language and memory retrieval by employing novel non-symbolic addition problems, where participants estimated the sum of two dot arrays and judged whether a probe dot array was the correct sum of the first two arrays. Furthermore, we experimentally manipulated which hemisphere receive the probe array first using a visual half-field paradigm while recording event-related potentials (ERP). We find that neural sensitivity to numerical meaning in arithmetic arises under left but not right visual field presentation during early and middle portions of the late positive complex (LPC, 400-800 ms). Furthermore, we find that subsequent accuracy for judgements of whether the probe is the correct sum is better under right visual field presentation than left, suggesting a left hemisphere advantage for integrating information for categorization or decision making related to arithmetic. Finally, neural signatures of operational momentum, or differential sensitivity to whether the probe was greater or less than the sum, occurred at a later portion of the LPC (800-1000 ms) and regardless of visual field of presentation, suggesting a temporal and functional dissociation between magnitude and ordinal processing in arithmetic. Together these results provide novel evidence for differences in timing and hemispheric lateralization for several cognitive processes involved in arithmetic thinking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107524
StatePublished - Sep 2020


  • Arithmetic
  • Cerebral hemispheres
  • Distance effect
  • Late positivity
  • Numerical cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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