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Localization of cortical areas activated by thinking

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These experiments were undertaken to demonstrate that pure mental activity, thinking, increases the cerebral blood flow and that different types of thinking increase the regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) in different cortical areas. As a first approach, thinking was defined as brain work in the form of operations on internal information, done by an awake subject. The rCBF was measured in 254 cortical regions in 11 subjects with the intracarotid 133Xe injection technique. In normal man, changes in the regional cortical metabolic rate of O2 leads to proportional changes in rCBF. One control study was taken with the subjects at rest. Then the rCBF was measured during three different simple algorithm tasks, each consisting of retrieval of a specific memory followed by a simple operation on the retrieved information. Once started, the information processing went on in the brain without any communication with the outside world. In 50-3 thinking, the subjects started with 50 and then, in their minds only, continuously subtracted 3 from the result. In jingle thinking the subjects internally jumped every second word in a nine-word circular jingle. In route-finding thinking the subjects imagined that they started at their front door and then walked alternatively to the left or the right each time they reached a corner. The rCBF increased only in homotypical cortical areas during thinking. The areas in the superior prefrontal cortex increased their rCBF equivalently during the three types of thinking. In the remaining parts of the prefrontal cortex there were multifocal increases of rCBF. The localizations and intensities of these rCBF increases depended on the type of internal operation occurring. The rCBF increased bilaterally in the angular cortex during 50-3 thinking. The rCBF increased in the right midtemporal cortex exclusively during jingle thinking. The intermediate and remote visual association areas, the superior occipital, posterior inferior temporal, and posterior superior parietal cortex, increased their rCBF exclusively during route-finding thinking. We observed no decreases in rCBF. All rCBF increases extended over a few square centimeters of the cortex. The activation of the superior prefrontal cortex was attributed to the organization of thinking. The activation of the angular cortex in 50-3 thinking was attributed to the retrieval of the numerical memory and memory for subtractions. The activation of the right midtemporal cortex was attributed to the retrieval of the nonverbal auditory memory.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Volume53
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)1219-43
Number of pages25
ISSN0022-3077
Publication statusPublished - May 1985

    Research areas

  • Brain Mapping, Cerebral Cortex, Energy Metabolism, Humans, Memory, Psychomotor Performance, Regional Blood Flow, Thinking

ID: 44333407