Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 8:610, 2014. PMCID: PMC4124462
Quantiﬁers, like “some” or “few,” are frequent in daily language. Linguists posit at least three distinct classes of quantiﬁers: cardinal quantiﬁers that rely on numerosity, majority quantiﬁers that additionally depend on executive resources, and logical quantiﬁers that rely on perceptual attention. We used BOLD fMRI to investigate the roles of frontal and parietal regions in quantiﬁer comprehension. Participants performed a sentence-picture veriﬁcation task to determine whether a sentence containing a quantiﬁer accurately describes a picture. A whole-brain analysis identiﬁed a network involved in quantiﬁer comprehension: This implicated bilateral inferior parietal, superior parietal and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices, and right inferior frontal cortex. We then performed region-of-interest analyses to assess the relative contribution of each region for each quantiﬁer class. Inferior parietal cortex was equally activated across all quantiﬁer classes, consistent with prior studies implicating the region for quantiﬁer comprehension due in part to its role in the representation of number knowledge. Right superior parietal cortex was up-regulated in comparison to frontal regions for cardinal and logical quantiﬁers, but parietal and frontal regions were equally activated for majority quantiﬁers and each frontal region is most highly activated for majority quantiﬁers.This ﬁnding is consistent with the hypothesis that majority quantiﬁers rely on numerosity mechanisms in parietal cortex and executive mechanisms in frontal cortex. Also, right inferior frontal cortex was up-regulated for logical compared to cardinal quantiﬁers, which may be related to selection demands associated with logical quantiﬁer comprehension. We conclude that distinct components of a large-scale fronto-parietal network contribute to speciﬁc aspects of quantiﬁer comprehension, and that this biologically deﬁned network is consistent with cognitive theories of quantiﬁer meaning.