Latest MontiLab publication in Psychological Science: A neural dissociation between the syntax operations of language and those of algebra

Does natural language provide a scaffolding upon which our mind built other domains of structure dependent thought, such as algebra, logic and music?

In a recent study published in Psychological Science we compared the neural basis of the syntactic operations of language to those of algebra, and the two appear to be (neurally) dissociated – meaning the neural machinery of language is not involved in reasoning and manipulating the syntactic structure of algebraic expressions. So the neural machinery that allows you to understand that “The girl kissed the boy” describes the same state of affairs as “The boy was kissed by the girl” is not involved in recognizing that “5 – 3 = 2” is the same as “5 = 3 + 2”.


Monti MM, Parsons LM, Osherson DN (2012) Thought beyond language: A neural dissociation of algebra and natural language. Psychological Science 23(8) 914-922. script