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Mathematics Meets Science in the Brain

Li Wang, Mengyi Li, Tao Yang,
Published: 9 July 2021

Abstract: Mathematics and science are highly integrated disciplines, but the brain association between mathematics and science remains unclear. The current study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans of 34 undergraduates (17 males, mean age = 20.3±1.64 years old) while they completed mathematical, physical and chemical principles, arithmetic computation, and sentence comprehension. We examined neural activation level, neural activation pattern, and neural connectivity to investigate the neural associations between mathematics and science (including physics and chemistry). The results showed that mathematical, physical, and chemical principles elicited similar neural activation level and neural activation pattern in the visuospatial network (mainly in the middle frontal gyrus and inferior parietal lobule), which were different from those elicited by sentence comprehension; those three principles also elicited similar neural activation level and neural activation pattern in the semantic network (mainly in the middle temporal gyrus, angular gyrus, inferior frontal gyrus, and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex), in contrast to that elicited by arithmetic computation. Effective connectivity analyses showed stronger connectivity between the middle temporal gyrus and inferior parietal lobule for mathematical, physical, and chemical principles than for sentence comprehension. The results suggest that visuospatial and semantic networks were critical for processing both mathematics and science.
Keywords: fMRI / mathematics / science / semantic network / visuospatial network

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