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Brain structure, number magnitude processing, and math proficiency in 6- to 7-year-old children born prematurely: a voxel-based morphometry study


Starke, Marc; Kiechl-Kohlendorfer, Ursula; Kucian, Karin; Pupp Peglow, Ulrike; Kremser, Christian; Schocke, Michael; Kaufmann, Liane (2013). Brain structure, number magnitude processing, and math proficiency in 6- to 7-year-old children born prematurely: a voxel-based morphometry study. NeuroReport, 24(8):419-424.

Abstract

The aim of the present voxel-based morphometry study was to examine the link between brain structure and number skills in a group of 6-7-year-old children born prematurely, which are considered to be an at-risk population for mathematical learning disabilities. Therefore, gray and white matter density values were extracted from brain areas previously reported to be relevant for number processing in developing brain systems and, thereafter, correlated with response time results tapping semantic number knowledge [i.e. numerical distance effect (NDE) derived from a number comparison task] as well as with general math proficiency (as indexed by a standardized calculation test). Behavioral results disclosed a significant NDE, thus indicating well-established number magnitude representations for one-digit numerals in our study group. Significant positive correlations between gray matter and NDE emerged in parietal regions (including the right anterior inferior and the left superior parietal lobe) and in the right superior temporal gyrus. Moreover, white matter and NDE were negatively correlated in the right anterior inferior parietal lobe and the right inferior frontal gyrus. Overall, our results are novel insofar as they show that in 6-7-year-old children born prematurely, individual differences in gray and white matter structures are associated with numerical skills. Importantly, in our study group the observed link between brain structure and behavioral performance emerges only regarding an experimental task tapping semantic number knowledge, whereas general math proficiency does not seem to be related to individual differences in brain structure in our study group.

The aim of the present voxel-based morphometry study was to examine the link between brain structure and number skills in a group of 6-7-year-old children born prematurely, which are considered to be an at-risk population for mathematical learning disabilities. Therefore, gray and white matter density values were extracted from brain areas previously reported to be relevant for number processing in developing brain systems and, thereafter, correlated with response time results tapping semantic number knowledge [i.e. numerical distance effect (NDE) derived from a number comparison task] as well as with general math proficiency (as indexed by a standardized calculation test). Behavioral results disclosed a significant NDE, thus indicating well-established number magnitude representations for one-digit numerals in our study group. Significant positive correlations between gray matter and NDE emerged in parietal regions (including the right anterior inferior and the left superior parietal lobe) and in the right superior temporal gyrus. Moreover, white matter and NDE were negatively correlated in the right anterior inferior parietal lobe and the right inferior frontal gyrus. Overall, our results are novel insofar as they show that in 6-7-year-old children born prematurely, individual differences in gray and white matter structures are associated with numerical skills. Importantly, in our study group the observed link between brain structure and behavioral performance emerges only regarding an experimental task tapping semantic number knowledge, whereas general math proficiency does not seem to be related to individual differences in brain structure in our study group.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > University Children's Hospital Zurich > Medical Clinic
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:11 April 2013
Deposited On:25 Apr 2013 09:17
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 16:46
Publisher:Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins
ISSN:0959-4965
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1097/WNR.0b013e32836140ed
PubMed ID:23587788
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-77797

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