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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Arithmetic mismatch negativity and numerical magnitude processing in number matching

Yi-Fang Hsu and Dénes Szücs*

Author affiliations

Centre for Neuroscience in Education, Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Cambridge; Downing site, Cambridge CB2 3EB, UK

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Citation and License

BMC Neuroscience 2011, 12:83  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-12-83

Published: 11 August 2011



This study examined the relationship of the arithmetic mismatch negativity (AMN) and the semantic evaluation of numerical magnitude. The first question was whether the AMN was sensitive to the incongruity in numerical information per se, or rather, to the violation of strategic expectations. The second question was whether the numerical distance effect could appear independently of the AMN. Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded while participants decided whether two digits were matching or non-matching in terms of physical similarity.


The AMN was enhanced in matching trials presented infrequently relative to non-matching trials presented frequently. The numerical distance effect was found over posterior sites during a 92 ms long interval (236-328 ms) but appeared independently of the AMN.


It was not the incongruity in numerical information per se, but rather, the violation of strategic expectations that elicited the AMN. The numerical distance effect might only temporally coincide with the AMN and did not form an inherent part of it.