Poster D128, Monday, March 27, 8:00 – 10:00 am, Pacific Concourse
Skill-related structural brain changes over the first years of math acquisition.
Janosch Linkersdörfer1,2,3, Fumiko Hoeft3,4, Sven Lindberg2,5, Marcus Hasselhorn1,2,6, Christian J. Fiebach2,6, Jan Lonnemann1,2; 1German Institute for International Educational Research, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, 2Center for Research on Individual Development and Adaptive Education of Children at Risk (IDeA), Frankfurt am Main, Germany, 3University of California, San Francisco, USA, 4Haskins Laboratories, Yale University, 5Paderborn University, Paderborn, Germany, 6Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Successful acquisition of arithmetic skills, especially in the early stages of school education, is an important prerequisite for future academic success and active participation in society. Despite its importance, however, our knowledge about the structural brain basis of the acquisition of arithmetic skills remains limited. The present study examines the structural brain changes that occur during the course of acquiring arithmetic skills, and how these changes are related to inter-individual differences in performance. To this end, we followed 45 elementary school children longitudinally from first to fourth grade. Every year, children’s performance in simple (single-digit addition without carrying) and more complex (subtraction with borrowing) arithmetic tasks was assessed using standardized scholastic achievement tests. Additionally, we acquired structural brain images using T1-weighted MR imaging and assessed intra-individual changes in cortical thickness using surfaced-based analysis (Freesurfer). In a whole-brain analysis using linear mixed effects models, we observed that cortical thickness changes were associated with arithmetic performance (averaged over all measurement time points), while controlling for gender and general cognitive abilities. Results show a negative relationship between math performance and gray matter thickness changes (i.e., increased thinning of gray matter in more proficient children) in bilateral middle and anterior temporal as well as right orbitofrontal regions for simple arithmetic tasks, and bilateral inferior and middle frontal regions for complex arithmetic tasks. These findings suggest an association between arithmetic performance and structural brain changes in regions related to memory formation and fact retrieval (simple tasks) as well as regions underlying cognitive control (complex tasks).
Topic Area: THINKING: Development & aging