Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists find brain function most important to maths ability

07.03.2006


Scientists at UCL (University College London) have discovered the area of the brain linked to dyscalculia, a maths learning disability. The finding shows that there is a separate part of the brain used for counting that is essential for diagnosis and an understanding of why many people struggle with maths.



The paper, published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), explains that an area of the brain widely thought to be involved in processing number information generally, in fact has two very separate, specific functions. One function is responsible for counting ‘how many’ things are present and the other is responsible for knowing ‘how much’.

It is the discovery of the part responsible for counting or numerosity that is a major finding for Professor Brian Butterworth, who also published ‘The Mathematical Brain’ and is an authority on dyscalculia. He believes his finding is the key to diagnosis of dyscalculia.


Professor Butterworth, of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, said: “Now that we know where to look for the differences in brain activation between those who suffer from dyscalculia and those who don’t have the learning disorder, we will be able to come up with better diagnosis and insights.

“Some years ago, my colleague, Professor Uta Frith, found the part of the brain responsible for dyslexia. That discovery has led to a much better understanding of the condition, promising better diagnosis and treatment. We hope our discovery will lead to similar insights into dyscalculia – a similar learning disability but one that is still relatively unknown to the general public.”

There were two experiments that looked at brain activity in the intraparietal sulcus (IPS) – the area known to be involved in processing number information - using an fMRI scan. The first analysed brain activity when subjects were counting and the second looked at activity when they were assessing quantities.

Professor Butterworth said: “There are two ways of counting things. Imagine assessing how many men versus women are in a room by counting them at the door as they enter the room, let’s say three women and four men, and then try assessing the difference by looking at the room when everyone is present. Both methods of assessing the number of people should produce the same result. Instead of assessing numbers of men and women, subjects saw blue and green squares shown in a sequence or blue and green squares shown on screen at the same time. We found that both methods activated the same brain region.

“But when we showed subjects the colours merged and appearing either as a continuously changing square or as one cloudy coloured rectangle different results were produced and a different brain network lit up. This is because the brain was no longer able to try to count the objects. Instead it had to assess how much colour was in the block and guess whether there was more of one colour or another.

“By comparing these two types of stimulus, we identified the brain activity specific to estimating numbers of things. We think this is a brain network that underlies arithmetic and may be abnormal in dyscalculics.”

The project was supported by the European Union Research Training Network Grant and the Medical Research Council Centre Grant.

Alex Brew | alfa
Further information:
http://www.ucl.ac.uk

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht A new tool for discovering nanoporous materials
23.05.2017 | Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

nachricht Did you know that packaging is becoming intelligent through flash systems?
23.05.2017 | Heraeus Noblelight GmbH

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

Im Focus: Using graphene to create quantum bits

In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.

In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Physicists discover mechanism behind granular capillary effect

24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Measured for the first time: Direction of light waves changed by quantum effect

24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>