Developmental dyscalculia (DD) is a disability that impacts math learning and skill acquisition in school-age children. Here we investigate arithmetic problem solving deficits in young children with DD using univariate and multivariate analysis of fMRI data. During fMRI scanning, 17 children with DD (ages 7-9, grades 2 and 3) and 17 IQ- and reading ability-matched typically developing (TD) children performed complex and simple addition problems which differed only in arithmetic complexity. While the TD group showed strong modulation of brain responses with increasing arithmetic complexity, children with DD failed to show such modulation. Children with DD showed significantly reduced activation compared to TD children in the intraparietal sulcus, superior parietal lobule, supramarginal gyrus and bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in relation to arithmetic complexity. Critically, multivariate representational similarity revealed that brain response patterns to complex and simple problems were less differentiated in the DD group in bilateral anterior IPS, independent of overall differences in signal level. Taken together, these results show that children with DD not only under-activate key brain regions implicated in mathematical cognition, but they also fail to generate distinct neural responses and representations for different arithmetic problems. Our findings provide novel insights into the neural basis of DD.
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