Mathematics or Memory? Study Charts Collision Course in Brain

Mathematics or Memory? Study Charts Collision Course in Brain

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You already know it’s hard to balance your checkbook while simultaneously reflecting on your past. Now, investigators at the Stanford University School of Medicine — having done the equivalent of wire-tapping a hard-to-reach region of the brain — can tell us how this impasse arises.

The researchers showed that groups of nerve cells in a structure called the posterior medial cortex, or PMC, are strongly activated during a recall task such as trying to remember whether you had coffee yesterday, but just as strongly suppressed when you’re engaged in solving a math problem. The PMC, situated roughly where the brain’s two hemispheres meet, is of great interest to neuroscientists because of its central role in introspective activities.

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