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Several scientific, engineering, and medical advancements are based on breakthroughs made by people who excel in mathematics. Our current understanding of the underlying brain networks stems primarily from anatomical and functional investigations, but our knowledge of how neurotransmitters subserve numerical skills, the building block of mathematics, is scarce. Using 1H magnetic resonance spectroscopy (N=54, 3T, semi-LASER sequence, TE=32ms, TR=3.5s), the study examined the relation between numerical skills and the brain’s major inhibitory (GABA) and excitatory (glutamate) neurotransmitters. A negative association was found between the performance in a number sequences task and the resting concentration of GABA within the left intraparietal sulcus (IPS), a key region supporting numeracy. The relation between GABA in the IPS and number sequences was specific (i) to parietal but not frontal regions and (ii), and to GABA but not glutamate. It was additionally found that the resting functional connectivity of left IPS and left superior frontal gyrus is positively associated with number sequences performance. However, resting GABA concentration within the IPS explained number sequences performance above and beyond the resting frontoparietal connectivity measure. Our findings further motivate the study of inhibition mechanisms in the human brain and significantly contribute to our current understanding of numerical cognition's biological bases.

Type

Journal article

Journal

Scientific Reports

Publisher

Nature Research (part of Springer Nature)

Publication Date

12/05/2021