Reassessing lateralization in calculation

Carlo Semenza, Silvia Benavides-Varela

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The role of the left hemisphere in calculation has been unequivocally demonstrated in numerous studies in the last decades. The right hemisphere, on the other hand, had been traditionally considered subsidiary to the left hemisphere functions, although its role was less clearly defined. Recent clinical studies as well as investigations conducted with other methodologies (e.g. neuroimaging, transcranial magnetic stimulation and direct cortical electro-stimulation) leave several unanswered questions about the contribution of the right hemisphere in calculation. In particular, novel clinical studies show that right hemisphere acalculia encompasses a wide variety of symptoms, affecting even simple calculation, which cannot be easily attributed to spatial disorders or to a generic difficulty effect as previously believed. The studies reported here also show how the right hemisphere has its own specific role and that only a bilateral orchestration between the respective functions of each hemisphere guarantees, in fact, precise calculation. Vis-à-vis these data, the traditional wisdom that attributes to the right hemisphere a role mostly confined to spatial aspects of calculation needs to be significantly reshaped. The question for the future is whether it is possible to precisely define the specific contribution of the right hemisphere in several aspects of calculation while highlighting the nature of the cross-talk between the two hemispheres.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20170044
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1740
Publication statusPublished - Feb 19 2017


  • Acalculia
  • Calculation
  • Direct cortical electrostimulation
  • Neuropsychological investigations
  • Right hemisphere
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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