Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Quality of white matter in the brain is crucial for adding and multiplying

28.01.2014
A new study led by Professor Bert De Smedt (Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, KU Leuven) has found that healthy 12-year-olds who score well in addition and multiplication have higher-quality white matter tracts. This correlation does not appear to apply to subtraction and division.

‘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."

Nursery rhymes

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!
Further information:
http://www.kuleuven.be
http://www.kuleuven.be/english/news/quality-of-white-matter-in-the-brain-is-crucial-for-adding-and-multiplying

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

nachricht Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

From volcano's slope, NASA instrument looks sky high and to the future

27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Control of molecular motion by metal-plated 3-D printed plastic pieces

27.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Move over, Superman! NIST method sees through concrete to detect early-stage corrosion

27.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>