Andy’s Quick Hits (165): ‘Math neurons’ identified in the brain

Andy Hab
2 min readFeb 21, 2022

This sounds like the sort of story which could be used as an excuse for bad math ability: “Ahh that’s why, it’s my neurons!”.

But it is interesting irrespective of using this as an excuse. The caveat is it was only a small study with just nine people taking part (due to its complex nature).

What the researchers at the University of Bonn discovered is that some neurons responded to specific mathematical functions. In addition, an artificial learning programme learned to identify what mathematical functions a person’s brain was performing.

This points to our brains’ having neurons dedicated to mathematical functions — in this study though it was only the simplest functions of addition and subtraction — and was consistent across participants.

So, no excuses — these functions seem to be instinctive and common to all human beings.

Esther F. Kutter, Jan Boström, Christian E. Elger, Andreas Nieder, Florian Mormann.
Neuronal codes for arithmetic rule processing in the human brain.
Current Biology, 2022
DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2022.01.054

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Andy Hab

The brain and human behaviour, in business, society, learning, and health.