Humans exhibit complex arithmetic skills, often attributed to our exceptionally large neocortex. However, the past decade has provided ample evidence that the functional domain of the subcortex extends well beyond basic functions. Using a sensitive behavioral method, for the first time, we explored the contributions of lower-order visual monocular channels to symbolic arithmetic operations, addition and subtraction. The pattern of results from 4 different experiments provides converging evidence for a causal relation between mental arithmetic and primitive subcortical regions. The results have major implications for our understanding of the neuroevolutionary development of general numerical abilities–subcortical regions, which are shared across different species, are essential to complex numerical operations. In a bigger conceptual framework, these findings and others call for a shift from the modal view of the exclusive role of the neocortex in high-level cognition to a view that emphasizes the interplay between subcortical and cortical brain networks.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (Grant No. 1986/19) to SG. All authors declare no conflict of interest pertaining to the present manuscript.
© 2021, The Author(s).