Early math achievement and functional connectivity in the fronto-parietal network

Dev Cogn Neurosci. 2012 Feb 15;2 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S139-51. doi: 10.1016/j.dcn.2011.11.003. Epub 2011 Nov 22.


In this study we test the hypothesis that the functional connectivity of the frontal and parietal regions that children recruit during a basic numerical task (matching Arabic numerals to arrays of dots) is predictive of their math test scores (TEMA-3; Ginsburg, 2003). Specifically, we tested 4-11-year-old children on a matching task during fMRI to localize a fronto-parietal network that responds more strongly during numerical matching than matching faces, words, or shapes. We then tested the functional connectivity between those regions during an independent task: natural viewing of an educational video that included math topics. Using this novel natural viewing method, we found that the connectivity between frontal and parietal regions during task-independent free-viewing of educational material is correlated with children's basic number matching ability, as well as their scores on the standardized test of mathematical ability (the TEMA). The correlation between children's mathematics scores and fronto-parietal connectivity is math-specific in the sense that it is independent of children's verbal IQ scores. Moreover, a control network, selective for faces, showed no correlation with mathematics performance. Finally, brain regions that correlate with subjects' overall response times in the matching task do not account for our number- and math-related effects. We suggest that the functional intersection of number-related frontal and parietal regions is math-specific.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Achievement*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Discrimination, Psychological
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Intelligence / physiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Mathematics*
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reaction Time
  • Young Adult