Recent evidence suggests that specific neuronal populations in the ventral temporal cortex show larger electrophysiological responses to visual numerals compared with morphologically similar stimuli. This study investigates how these responses change from simple reading of numerals to the active use of numerals in an arithmetic context. We recorded high-frequency broadband (HFB) signals, a reliable measure for local neuronal population activity, while 10 epilepsy patients implanted with subdural electrodes performed separate numeral reading and calculation tasks. We found that calculation increased activity in the posterior inferior temporal gyrus (ITG) with a factor of approximately 1.5 over the first 500 ms of calculation, whereas no such increase was noted for reading numerals without calculation or reading and judging memory statements. In a second experiment conducted in 2 of the same subjects, we show that HFB responses increase in a systematic manner when the single numerals were presented successively in a calculation context: The HFB response in the ITG, to the second and third numerals (i.e., b and c in a + b = c), was approximately 1.5 times larger than the responses to the first numeral (a). These results provide electrophysiological evidence for modulation of local neuronal population responses to visual stimuli based on increasing task demands.
View details for PubMedID 26503267