Neurons responsible for addition and subtraction discovered

(ORDO NEWS) — It seems that special groups of neurons are responsible for performing arithmetic operations in the brain: some for addition, others for subtraction.

Any student can add two and two, but even scientists do not know exactly how addition and other arithmetic operations are performed by brain cells.

According to the new work of researchers from Germany, specialized neurons are used for this, and some of them fire only for addition, while others work for subtraction, regardless of whether the task is performed verbally or in writing. This is discussed in a new article published in the journal Current Biology .

Professor Florian Mormann and his colleagues have worked with patients with epilepsy who are being treated at the Bonn University Hospital.

Some of these patients are surgically implanted with thin electrodes that record the activity of neurons, allowing them to more accurately localize the focus from which they develop acute attacks. These electrodes are used by scientists to examine neighboring areas of the brain.

For the new work, nine volunteers (five women and four men) were selected with electrodes placed in the temporal lobe. The scientists asked them to perform addition and subtraction, finding that different populations of local neurons fired.

The temporal lobe contains the main visual centers of the brain, and to make sure that the cells do not just respond to images of “+” and “-“, some tasks were formulated orally and asked to be performed mentally. The result was the same.

Additional confirmation was also received “from the car”. The stored data on the brain activity of volunteers Mormann et al. used to prepare the neural network. She really learned to determine what kind of arithmetic operation – addition or subtraction – a person performs, based on the patterns of activity of nerve cells.

These patterns are not always the same. So, in the hippocampus, the same “addition neurons” or “subtraction neurons” are activated each time.

But in the adjacent cortex of the parahippocampal gyrus, one or the other patterns are triggered, corresponding to the desired arithmetic action.

According to scientists, this is similar to the “+” key changing its position on the keyboard. Such a difference in the work of the “arithmetic neurons” of different areas of the brain, apparently, indicates that they perform different tasks at the same time. Which ones, exactly, remains to be seen.


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