You can count on the motor cortex: Finger counting habits modulate motor cortex activation evoked by numbers

Nadja Tschentscher, Olaf Hauk, Martin H. Fischer, Friedemann Pulvermueller

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    88 Citations (Scopus)


    The embodied cognition framework suggests that neural systems for perception and action are engaged during higher cognitive processes. In an event-related fMRI study, we tested this claim for the abstract domain of numerical symbol processing: is the human cortical motor system part of the representation of numbers, and is organization of numerical knowledge influenced by individual finger counting habits? Developmental studies suggest a link between numerals and finger counting habits due to the acquisition of numerical skills through finger counting in childhood. In the present study, digits 1 to 9 and the corresponding number words were presented visually to adults with different finger counting habits, i.e. left- and right-starters who reported that they usually start counting small numbers with their left and right hand, respectively. Despite the absence of overt hand movements, the hemisphere contralateral to the hand used for counting small numbers was activated when small numbers were presented. The correspondence between finger counting habits and hemispheric motor activation is consistent with an intrinsic functional link between finger counting and number processing. (C) 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3139-3148
    Number of pages10
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2012

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