Int J Biol Sci 2019; 15(6):1148-1160. doi:10.7150/ijbs.33400 This issue

Research Paper

Causal Cortical Network for Arithmetic Problem-Solving Represents Brain's Planning Rather than Reasoning

Zhishan Hu*, Keng-Fong Lam*, Yu-Tao Xiang, Zhen Yuan

Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Macau, Macau SAR, China
*These authors contributed equally to this work

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY-NC) license ( See for full terms and conditions.
Hu Z, Lam KF, Xiang YT, Yuan Z. Causal Cortical Network for Arithmetic Problem-Solving Represents Brain's Planning Rather than Reasoning. Int J Biol Sci 2019; 15(6):1148-1160. doi:10.7150/ijbs.33400. Available from

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Graphic abstract

Arithmetic problem-solving whose components mainly involve the calculation, planning and reasoning, is an important mathematical skill. To date, the neural mechanism underlying arithmetic problem-solving remains unclear. In this study, a scheme that combined a novel 24 points game paradigm, conditional Granger causality analysis, and near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) neuroimaging technique was developed to examine the differences in brain activation and effective connectivity between the calculation, planning, and reasoning. We discovered that the performance of planning was correlated with the activation in frontal cortex, whereas the performance of reasoning showed the relationship with the activation in parietal cortex. In addition, we also discovered that the directional effective connectivity between the anterior frontal and posterior parietal cortex was more closely related to planning rather than reasoning. It is expected that this work will pave a new avenue for an improved understanding of the neural underpinnings underlying arithmetic problem-solving, which also provides a novel indicator to evaluate the efficacy of mathematical education.

Keywords: arithmetic problem-solving, planning, reasoning, Granger causality, fNIRS, brain networks