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Neuropsychologia. 2009 Oct;47(12):2470-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2009.04.024. Epub 2009 May 3.

Aberrant functional activation in school age children at-risk for mathematical disability: a functional imaging study of simple arithmetic skill.

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  • 1Vanderbilt University Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development, USA. Nikki.Davis@Vanderbilt.Edu


We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to explore the patterns of brain activation associated with different levels of performance in exact and approximate calculation tasks in well-defined cohorts of children with mathematical calculation difficulties (MD) and typically developing controls. Both groups of children activated the same network of brain regions; however, children in the MD group had significantly increased activation in parietal, frontal, and cingulate cortices during both calculation tasks. A majority of the differences occurred in anatomical brain regions associated with cognitive resources such as executive functioning and working memory that are known to support higher level arithmetic skill but are not specific to mathematical processing. We propose that these findings are evidence that children with MD use the same types of problem solving strategies as TD children, but their weak mathematical processing system causes them to employ a more developmentally immature and less efficient form of the strategies.

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