Number representation in the parietal lobes
This thesis considers the importance of the inferior parietal lobe for calculation and Arabic number comparison. The first experiment demonstrates that repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) can be used on normal subjects to replicate findings from studies of patients whose ability to calculate after brain injury was impaired. While subjects were solving addition tasks, rTMS was applied over anterior and posterior areas of the inferior parietal lobule and the adjoining intraparietal sulcus (aIPL+S, pIPL+S). In line with results from patient studies, magnetic stimulation showed a disruptive effect only over left IPL+S. It had no disruptive effect when delivered over right inferior parietal lobule and the adjoining intraparietal sulcus. To investigate the representation of number magnitude in the human brain rTMS was subsequently applied to the same inferior parietal regions while subjects performed a number comparison task. With numbers between 31 and 99, repetitive TMS over the pIPL+S disrupted organisation of the putative "number line". rTMS had no disruptive effect when delivered over aIPL+S, in either the left or right hemisphere. With numbers between 1 and 9, however, TMS over the pIPL+S did not impair task performance. Here, TMS had a disruptive effect when delivered over aIPL+S, in either the left or right hemisphere, thus suggesting that areas in the inferior parietal lobes might be specialised for certain number sizes. The idea of a spatial mental number line was further investigated in a detailed single-case description of a person with an automatic mental number line. In the last experiment, functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) was used to investigate number comparison. The fMRI study gave some indication that small numbers might be represented in the aIPL+S region. In general, the fMRI results suggest that parietal cortical contribution to number magnitude representation is intimately related to its role in basic sensorimotor processes.