Reconfiguration of parietal circuits with cognitive tutoring in elementary school children

Cortex. 2016 Oct;83:231-45. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2016.08.004. Epub 2016 Aug 13.


Cognitive development is shaped by brain plasticity during childhood, yet little is known about changes in large-scale functional circuits associated with learning in academically relevant cognitive domains such as mathematics. Here, we investigate plasticity of intrinsic brain circuits associated with one-on-one math tutoring and its relation to individual differences in children's learning. We focused on functional circuits associated with the intraparietal sulcus (IPS) and angular gyrus (AG), cytoarchitectonically distinct subdivisions of the human parietal cortex with different roles in numerical cognition. Tutoring improved performance and strengthened IPS connectivity with the lateral prefrontal cortex, ventral temporal-occipital cortex, and hippocampus. Crucially, increased IPS connectivity was associated with individual performance gains, highlighting the behavioral significance of plasticity in IPS circuits. Tutoring-related changes in IPS connectivity were distinct from those of the adjacent AG, which did not predict performance gains. Our findings provide new insights into plasticity of functional brain circuits associated with the development of specialized cognitive skills in children.

Keywords: Arithmetic; Functional connectivity; Learning; Plasticity; Training.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Child
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Mathematics
  • Nerve Net / diagnostic imaging*
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Parietal Lobe / diagnostic imaging*
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology
  • Problem Solving / physiology