Mathematics is a strange beast. It uses our language, but it isn’t quite the same – our brains hear it entirely differently from everyday speech. For example: when we hear a sentence like “cats like warm milk,” our brains process that information mainly in the left hemisphere. Something like “eight plus one is nine,” though, will fire neurons in both.
A study published in the journal Current Biology took a closer look at how our brains process mathematics (as opposed to regular speech). While our brains process ordinary language in the left hemisphere, math triggers neurons in both hemispheres.
The neuroscientists from the Universities of Tübingen and Bonn said in an interview: “We found that different neurons fired during additions than during subtractions.”
Esther Kutter, a doctoral candidate involved with the research group, confirmed: “Even when we replaced the mathematical symbols with words, the effect remained the same. For example, when subjects were asked to calculate ‘5 and 3’, their addition neurons sprang back into action; whereas for ‘7 less 4,’ their subtraction neurons did.”
The lead author of the study Prof. Dr. Dr. Florian Mormann of the Department of Epileptology at University Hospital Bonn, remarked on the study’s significance: “This study marks an important step towards a better understanding of one of our most important symbolic abilities, namely calculating with numbers.” – WTF Fun Facts
Source: Math Neurons” Fire Differently Depending On Whether You Add Or Subtract — IFL Science