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Behavioral equivalence, but not neural equivalence—neural evidence of alternative strategies in mathematical thinking


In a functional magnetic resonance imaging study, we investigated how people solve mathematically equivalent problems presented in two alternative formats: verbal, story format or symbolic, equation format. Although representation format had no effect on behavior, anterior prefrontal activation was greater in the story condition and posterior parietal activation was greater in the equation condition. These results show that there exist alternative neural pathways that implement different and yet equally efficient problem-solving strategies.

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Figure 1: Activation changes in each representation format condition.
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This research is supported by US National Science Foundation grant BCS-9975220 (to J.R.A., K.R.K. and C.S.C.) and National Institute of Mental Health Independent Scientist Award MH64190 (to C.S.C.). We thank Y. Qin for his technical help.

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Correspondence to Myeong-Ho Sohn.

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Sohn, MH., Goode, A., Koedinger, K. et al. Behavioral equivalence, but not neural equivalence—neural evidence of alternative strategies in mathematical thinking. Nat Neurosci 7, 1193–1194 (2004).

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