Effects of development and enculturation on number representation in the brain. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 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: 31.38). 05/2008; 9(4):278-91. DOI: 10.1038/nrn2334
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT 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, Aug 15, 2015
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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.
    Neuropsychologia 07/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2015.07.005 · 3.45 Impact Factor
    • "The 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). Neural plasticity allows for the redeployment of neural circuitry for functions not originally specified by evolution (Dehaene 1997; Dehaene and Cohen 2007). "
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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.
    Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology 07/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.pbiomolbio.2015.06.016 · 3.38 Impact Factor
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    • "Indeed, studies have shown that subtraction and addition problems lead to under-and over-estimation and this Operational Momentum effect has been explained in terms of attentional shifts on a spatially organized mental representation of numbers (Knops et al., 2009, 2013, 2014) as if quantities were represented in the format of an internal mental Number Line (Hubbard et al., 2005; Rotzer et al., 2009). From a neurofunctional perspective, processing of numerical magnitudes has been identified in the parietal lobes and more specifically in the bilateral intraparietal sulcus (IPS; Ansari, 2008; Nieder and Dehaene, 2009; Piazza et al., 2004; Piazza et al., 2007; see Arsalidou and Taylor, 2011 for a meta-analysis). This area is sensitive to the distance effect in digit comparison tasks both for children and adults (Mussolin et al., 2010; Pinel et al., 2001) as well as being less sensitive in children with mathematical learning disability (Mussolin et al., 2010). "
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    ABSTRACT: The Number Line (NL) task requires judging the relative numerical magnitude of a number and estimating its value spatially on a continuous line. Children's skill on this task has been shown to correlate with and predict future mathematical competence. Neurofunctionally, this task has been shown to rely on brain regions involved in numerical processing. However, there is no direct evidence that performance on the NL task is related to brain areas recruited during arithmetical processing and that these areas are domain-specific to numerical processing. In this study, we test whether 8- to 14-year-old's behavioral performance on the NL task is related to fMRI activation during small and large single-digit subtraction problems. Domain-specific areas for numerical processing were independently localized through a numerosity judgment task. Results show a direct relation between NL estimation performance and the amount of the activation in key areas for arithmetical processing. Better NL estimators showed a larger problem size effect than poorer NL estimators in numerical magnitude (i.e., intraparietal sulcus) and visuospatial areas (i.e., posterior superior parietal lobules), marked by less activation for small problems. In addition, the direction of the activation with problem size within the IPS was associated with differences in accuracies for small subtraction problems. This study is the first to show that performance in the NL task, i.e. estimating the spatial position of a number on an interval, correlates with brain activity observed during single-digit subtraction problem in regions thought to be involved in numerical magnitude and spatial processes.
    NeuroImage 02/2015; 107. DOI:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2014.12.011 · 6.36 Impact Factor
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