Processes in arithmetic strategy selection: a fMRI study


  • Taillan Julien
  • Ardiale Eléonore
  • Anton Jean-Luc
  • Nazarian Bruno
  • Félician Olivier
  • Lemaire Patrick


  • Strategy selection
  • Arithmetic problem solving
  • FMRI
  • Anterior cingulate cortex
  • Dorso-lateral prefrontal cortex

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This neuroimaging (functional magnetic resonance imaging) study investigated neural correlates of strategy selection. Young adults performed an arithmetic task in two different conditions. In both conditions, participants had to provide estimates of two-digit multiplication problems like 54 × 78. In the choice condition, participants had to select the better of two available rounding strategies, rounding-up (RU) strategy (i.e., doing 60 × 80 = 4,800) or rounding-down (RD) strategy (i.e., doing 50 × 70 = 3,500 to estimate product of 54 × 78). In the no-choice condition, participants did not have to select strategy on each problem but were told which strategy to use; they executed RU and RD strategies each on a series of problems. Participants also had a control task (i.e., providing correct products of multiplication problems like 40 × 50). Brain activations and performance were analyzed as a function of these conditions. Participants were able to frequently choose the better strategy in the choice condition; they were also slower when they executed the difficult RU than the easier RD. Neuroimaging data showed greater brain activations in right anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), dorso-lateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), and angular gyrus (ANG), when selecting (relative to executing) the better strategy on each problem. Moreover, RU was associated with more parietal cortex activation than RD.These results suggest an important role of fronto-parietal network in strategy selection and have important implications for our further understanding and modeling cognitive processes underlying strategy selection.

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