UCLA psychologists investigated a widely-held view that natural language underpins different areas of thought, such as mathematic reasoning. However, their findings overturn this assumption: language and algebra are processed through different neural mechanisms.
"Our findings indicate that processing the syntax of language elicits the known substrate of linguistic competence, whereas algebraic operations recruit bilateral parietal brain regions previously implicated in the representation of magnitude," write the study authors. "This double dissociation argues against the view that language provides the structure of thought across all cognitive domains."
These results are consistent with neuropsychological evidence (Butterworth, 2005; Cipolotti et al., 1991; Varley et al., 2005) and findings showing parallel dissociations between the operations of language and those of logical reasoning (Monti & Osherson, 2012; Monti, Osherson, Martinez, & Parsons, 2007; Monti et al., 2009).
As a side note on their way toward further supporting their findings, the researchers observed that "on a behavioral level, algebraic equivalence was more difficult than linguistic equivalence" for their participants. [Yep, I think a lot of us could have helped them out with that assessment . . . ]