Neural Correlates of Symbolic Number Comparison in Developmental Dyscalculia

J Cogn Neurosci. 2010 May;22(5):860-74. doi: 10.1162/jocn.2009.21237.

Abstract

Developmental dyscalculia (DD) is a deficit in number processing and arithmetic that affects 3-6% of schoolchildren. The goal of the present study was to analyze cerebral bases of DD related to symbolic number processing. Children with DD aged 9-11 years and matched children with no learning disability history were investigated using fMRI. The two groups of children were controlled for general cognitive factors, such as working memory, reading abilities, or IQ. Brain activations were measured during a number comparison task on pairs of Arabic numerals and a color comparison task on pairs of nonnumerical symbols. In each task, pairs of stimuli that were close or far on the relevant dimension were constituted. Brain activation in bilateral intraparietal sulcus (IPS) was modulated by numerical distance in controls but not in children with DD. Moreover, although the right IPS responded to numerical distance only, the left IPS was influenced by both numerical and color distances in control children. Our findings suggest that dyscalculia is associated with impairment in areas involved in number magnitude processing and, to a lesser extent, in areas dedicated to domain-general magnitude processing.

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cerebral Cortex / blood supply
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Child
  • Cognition Disorders / pathology*
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Color Perception / physiology
  • Developmental Disabilities / pathology*
  • Developmental Disabilities / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Mathematics*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Symbolism*

Substances

  • Oxygen