Ansari, D. Effects of development and enculturation on number representation in the brain. Nature Rev. Neurosci. 9, 278-291

Numerical Cognition Laboratory, Department of Psychology and Graduate Program in Neuroscience, University of Western Ontario, Ontario N6G 2K3, Canada.
Nature Reviews Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 31.43). 05/2008; 9(4):278-91. DOI: 10.1038/nrn2334
Source: PubMed


A striking way in which humans differ from non-human primates is in their ability to represent numerical quantity using abstract symbols and to use these 'mental tools' to perform skills such as exact calculations. How do functional brain circuits for the symbolic representation of numerical magnitude emerge? Do neural representations of numerical magnitude change as a function of development and the learning of mental arithmetic? Current theories suggest that cultural number symbols acquire their meaning by being mapped onto non-symbolic representations of numerical magnitude. This Review provides an evaluation of this contention and proposes hypotheses to guide investigations into the neural mechanisms that constrain the acquisition of cultural representations of numerical magnitude.

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Available from: Daniel Ansari, Oct 05, 2015
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    • "Therefore, at a basic level the current findings could be seen to lend support to the hypothesis that numerical magnitude system or 'approximate number system' (ANS) is a critical foundation for the development of math competence . However, more recent evidence suggests that some degree of hemispheric lateralization may be at play in the intraparietal sulcus, whereby the left IPS is engaged by symbolic magnitude processing while the right IPS is more engaged by nonsymbolic magnitude processing (Ansari, 2008; Holloway et al., 2013; Vogel et al., 2015). In addition, a number of recent studies have suggested that symbolic magnitude processing is a stronger predictor of math skills than nonsymbolic magnitude processing (De Smedt et al., 2013). "
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    ABSTRACT: Mathematical and numerical competence is a critical foundation for individual success in modern society yet the neurobiological sources of individual differences in math competence are poorly understood. Neuroimaging research over the last decade suggests that neural mechanisms in the parietal lobe, particularly the intraparietal sulcus (IPS) are structurally aberrant in individuals with mathematical learning disabilities. However, whether those same brain regions underlie individual differences in math performance across the full range of math abilities is unknown. Furthermore, previous studies have been exclusively cross-sectional, making it unclear whether variations in the structure of the IPS are caused by or consequences of the development of math skills. The present study investigates the relation between grey matter volume across the whole brain and math competence longitudinally in a representative sample of 50 elementary school children. Results show that grey matter volume in the left IPS at the end of 1(st) grade relates to math competence a year later at the end of 2(nd) grade. Grey matter volume in this region did not change over that year, and was still correlated with math competence at the end of 2(nd) grade. These findings support the hypothesis that the IPS and its associated functions represent a critical foundation for the acquisition of mathematical competence. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Inc.
    NeuroImage 08/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.08.046 · 6.36 Impact Factor
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    • "Searchlight methods, which span the entire brain, can overcome these limitations (Connolly et al., 2012; Devereux, Clarke, Marouchos, & Tyler, 2013; Qin et al., 2014; Rothlein & Rapp, 2014; Xue et al., 2013) and offer a powerful technique to investigate how learning and development shape neural representations across multiple brain areas. To contrast agerelated differences in VTOC areas associated with visual number form versus dorsal parietal areas associated with semantic representation of quantity (Ansari, 2008; Arsalidou & Taylor, 2011; Cohen Kadosh et al., 2008; Dehaene et al., 2003), here we also examine MRS in cytoarchitectonically-defined subdivisions of the PPC and VTOC. "
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    ABSTRACT: How the brain develops representations for abstract cognitive problems is a major unaddressed question in neuroscience. Here we tackle this fundamental question using arithmetic problem solving, a cognitive domain important for the development of mathematical reasoning. We first examined whether adults demonstrate common neural representations for addition and subtraction problems, two complementary arithmetic operations that manipulate the same quantities. We then examined how the common neural representations for the two problem types change with development. Whole-brain multivoxel representational similarity (MRS) analysis was conducted to examine common coding of addition and subtraction problems in children and adults. We found that adults exhibited significant levels of MRS between the two problem types, not only in the intra-parietal sulcus (IPS) region of the posterior parietal cortex (PPC), but also in ventral temporal-occipital, anterior temporal and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices. Relative to adults, children showed significantly reduced levels of MRS in these same regions. In contrast, no brain areas showed significantly greater MRS between problem types in children. Our findings provide novel evidence that the emergence of arithmetic problem solving skills from childhood to adulthood is characterized by maturation of common neural representations between distinct numerical operations, and involve distributed brain regions important for representing and manipulating numerical quantity. More broadly, our findings demonstrate that representational analysis provides a powerful approach for uncovering fundamental mechanisms by which children develop proficiencies that are a hallmark of human cognition. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
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    • "This more hermeneutical approach, combined with empirical science, allows us to see that cultural accomplishments of geometry and mathematics are not biological adaptations, although they are grounded on such adaptations, the evolution of the upright posture, human hands and brains. " The cortical circuits with which we are endowed through evolution are transformed to perform these new culturally specified cognitive functions, even though they evolved to perform different functions " (Menary, 2013, 354; see Ansari, 2008; Dehaene, 1997, 2009). "
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    ABSTRACT: In this paper I review broadly embodied, phenomenological and evolutionary conceptions of the origin of mathematics. I relate these conceptions to Husserl's work on the origins of geometry, and recent research into the notion of extended expertise and the role of enculturation as they relate to mathematical reasoning. I suggest that the concept of 'affordance space' - the (abstract) range of possibilities provided by any change in body or environment - is a useful construct in working out the contributions of evolution and enculturation to mathematical reasoning. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
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