Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Mental images of number lines, Galton's “number forms” (NF), are a useful way of investigating the relation between number and space. Here we report the first neuroimaging study of number-form synesthesia, investigating 10 synesthetes with NFs going from left to right compared with matched controls. Neuroimaging with functional magnetic resonance imaging revealed no difference in brain activation during a task focused on number magnitude but, in a comparable task on number order, synesthetes showed additional activations in the left and right posterior intraparietal sulci, suggesting that NFs are essentially ordinal in nature. Our results suggest that there are separate but partially overlapping neural circuits for the processing of ordinal and cardinal numbers, irrespective of the presence of an NF, but a core region in the anterior intraparietal sulcus representing (cardinal) number meaning appears to be activated autonomously, irrespective of task. This article provides an important extension beyond previous studies that have focused on word-color or grapheme-color synesthesia.