‘Grey’ cells process information in the brain and are connected via neural pathways, the tracts through which signals are transferred.
The arcuate fasciculus anterior (green) is a neural pathway connecting brain regions often used for arithmetic. A positive correlation was found between the quality of the white matter sheathing the pathway and proficiency in adding and multiplying. ©LVB
"Neural pathways are comparable to a bundle of cables. These cables are surrounded by an isolating sheath: myelin, or 'white matter'. The thicker the isolating sheath and the more cables there are, the more white matter. And the more white matter, the faster the signals are transferred," explains educational neuroscientist Bert de Smedt.
While the correlation between arithmetic and white matter tracts linking certain brain regions is known, very little research has been done to test this correlation in normally-developing children. Nor has previous research teased out differences in neuroactivity when carrying out different arithmetic operations, e.g., adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing.
In this study, the researchers had 25 children solve a series of different arithmetic operations while undergoing a brain scan. They then compared the quality of the children’s white matter tracts with their arithmetic test performance.
"We found that a better quality of the arcuate fasciculus anterior – a white matter tract that connects brain regions often used for arithmetic – corresponds to better performance in adding and multiplying, while there is no correlation for subtracting and dividing.”
“A possible explanation for this is that this white matter bundle is involved in rote memorization, whereas when we subtract and divide, such memorization plays less of a role. When subtracting and dividing we are more likely to use intermediary steps to calculate the solution, even as adults."
These findings also add insight into the link between reading and arithmetic, explains Professor De Smedt: "Reading proficiency and arithmetic proficiency often go hand-in-hand. The white matter tract that we studied also plays an important role in reading: when we learn to read, we have to memorize the correspondence between particular letters and the sound they represent. It is likely that a similar process occurs for addition and multiplication. Just think of the notorious times-table drills we all memorized as schoolchildren; it is almost like learning a nursery rhyme. Some of us can even auto-recall these sums."
"This also might explain why we often see arithmetic problems in children with dyslexia. Likewise, children with dyscalculia often have trouble reading," says Professor De Smedt.
The researchers now aim to explore how these results relate to children with impairments such as dyscalculia or head trauma. In a next step, the team will also investigate how white matter tracts can be strengthened through extra arithmetic training.
The study "Left fronto-parietal white matter correlates with individual differences in children's ability to solve additions and multiplications: A tractography study" by Leen Van Beek, Pol Ghesquière, Lieven Lagae and Bert De Smedt is published in the journal NeuroImage and is available online at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053811913012494.
Bert De Smedt | EurekAlert!
Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung
High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.
Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine
21.10.2016 | Information Technology
21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences