Neural Processing Mechanism of Mental Calculation Based on Cerebral Oscillatory Changes: A Comparison Between Abacus Experts and Novices

Abdelkader Nasreddine Belkacem, Kanako Kiso, Etsuko Uokawa, Tetsu Goto, Shiro Yorifuji, Masayuki Hirata

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Abacus experts could mentally calculate fast some mathematical operations using multi-digit numbers. The temporal dynamics of abacus mental calculation are still unknown although some behavioral and neuroimaging studies have suggested a visuospatial and visuomotor neural process during abacus mental calculation. Therefore, this contribution aims to clarify the significant similarities and the differences between experts and novices by investigating calculation-induced neuromagnetic responses based on cerebral oscillatory changes. Methods: Twelve to 13 healthy abacus experts and 17 non-experts participated in two experimental paradigms using non-invasive neuromagnetic measurements. In experiments 1 and 2, the spatial distribution of oscillatory changes presented mental calculations and temporal frequency profiles during addition while examining multiplication tasks. The MEG data were analyzed using synthetic aperture magnetometry (SAM) with an adaptive beamformer to calculate the group average of the spatial distribution of oscillatory changes and their temporal frequency profiles in source-level analyses. Results: Using a group average of the spatial distribution of oscillatory changes, we observed some common brain activities in both right-handed abacus experts and non-experts. In non-experts, we detected the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and bilateral Intraparietal sulcus (IPS); whereas in experts, detected the bilateral parieto-occipital sulcus (POS), right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), and left sensorimotor areas mainly. Based on the findings generated, we could propose calculation processing models for both abacus experts and non- experts conveniently. Conclusion: The proposed model of calculation processing in abacus experts and novices revealed that the novices could calculate logically depending on numerical processing in the left IPS. In contrast, abacus experts are utilizing spatial processing using a memorized imaginary abacus, which distributed over the bilateral hemispheres in the IFG and sensorimotor areas.

Original languageEnglish
Article number137
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - Apr 15 2020


  • abacus mental calculation
  • brain hemispheres activation
  • cerebral oscillatory
  • magnetoencephalography
  • neural mechanism
  • synthetic aperture magnetometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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