Neural Correlates of Mathematical Skills and Performance

Principal Investigator: Michele Mazzocco

In a recent publication, we demonstrated that there are large individual differences in adolescents’ numerical acuity, and that 14-year-olds’ numerical acuity is retroactively predictive of their earlier math achievement scores. This relationship holds when statistically controlling for cognitive skills such as processing speed or full scale IQ (FSIQ). We have also demonstrated that numerical acuity differentiates a subset of children with very poor or very high math achievement from their typically achieving peers. We aim to determine whether individual differences in numerical acuity are related to variability in the underlying neural representations. We will use functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to study brain activation associated with the discrimination of numerical quantities. Specifically, we will measure the neuronal activation patterns of children from the longitudinal sample that participated in the PI's longitudinal study (RPN 95-05-26-02) who present with clearly differentiated levels of math achievement. We will also obtain structural measures to quantify cortical thickness and white matter tracts data from all participants. Currently there are only a few neuroimaging investigations into the brain correlates of math learning difficulties. In the research on reading developmental and dyslexia, neuroimaging studies are continuing to form an important complement to behavioral investigations. The functional neuroimaging studies proposed herein will move the study of the neurocognitive mechanisms of math performance closer to the level of knowledge gained in the domain of studying the atypical and typical development of the reading brain.