Abacus experts are able to mentally calculate multi-digit numbers rapidly. Some behavioral and neuro imaging studies have suggested a visuospatial and visuomotor strategy during abacus mental calculation. However, no study up to now has attempted to dissociate temporally the visuospatial neural process from the visuomotor neural process during abacus mental calculation.
Abacus Use Increases Neural Connectivity
In the present study, an abacus expert performed the mental addition tasks (8-digit and 4-digit addends presented in visual or auditory modes) swiftly and accurately. The 100% correct rates in this expert’s task performance were significantly higher than those of ordinary subjects performing 1-digit and 2-digit addition tasks. ERPs, EEG source localizations, and fMRI results taken together suggested visuospatial and visuomotor processes were sequentially arranged during the abacus mental addition with visual addends and could be dissociated from each other temporally.
Links: Abacus Use And Neural Connectivity
Experts of abacus operation demonstrate extraordinary ability in mental calculation. There is psychological evidence that abacus experts utilize a mental image of an abacus to remember and manipulate large numbers in solving problems; however, the neural correlates underlying this expertise are unknown. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we compared the neural correlates associated with three mental-operation tasks (numeral, spatial, verbal) among six experts in abacus operations and eight nonexperts. In general, there was more involvement of neural correlates for visuospatial processing (e.g., right premotor and parietal areas) for abacus experts during the numeral mental-operation task. Activity of these areas and the fusiform cortex was correlated with the size of numerals used in the numeral mental-operation task. Particularly, the posterior superior parietal cortex revealed significantly enhanced activity for experts compared with controls during the numeral mental-operation task. Comparison with the other mental-operation tasks indicated that activity in the posterior superior parietal cortex was relatively specific to computation in 2-dimensional space. In conclusion, mental calculation of abacus experts is likely associated with enhanced involvement of the neural resources for visuospatial information processing in 2-dimensional space.