Parietal and hippocampal hyper-connectivity is associated with low math achievement in adolescence - A preliminary study

Dev Sci. 2022 May;25(3):e13187. doi: 10.1111/desc.13187. Epub 2021 Nov 25.


Mathematical cognition requires coordinated activity across multiple brain regions, leading to the emergence of resting-state functional connectivity as a method for studying the neural basis of differences in mathematical achievement. Hyper-connectivity of the intraparietal sulcus (IPS), a key locus of mathematical and numerical processing, has been associated with poor mathematical skills in childhood, whereas greater connectivity has been related to better performance in adulthood. No studies to date have considered its role in adolescence. Further, hippocampal connectivity can predict mathematical learning, yet no studies have considered its contributions to contemporaneous measures of math achievement. Here, we used seed-based resting-state fMRI analyses to examine IPS and hippocampal intrinsic functional connectivity relations to math achievement in a group of 31 adolescents (mean age = 16.42 years, range 15-17), whose math performance spanned the 1% to 99% percentile. After controlling for IQ, IPS connectivity was negatively related to math achievement, akin to findings in children. However, the specific temporo-occipital regions were more akin to the posterior loci implicated in adults. Hippocampal connectivity with frontal regions was also negatively correlated with concurrent math measures, which contrasts with results from learning studies. Finally, hyper-connectivity was not a global feature of low math performance, as math performance did not modulate connectivity of Heschl's gyrus, a control seed not involved in math cognition. Our results provide preliminary evidence that adolescence is a transitional stage in which patterns found in childhood and adulthood can be observed; most notably, hyper-connectivity continues to be related to low math ability into this period.

Keywords: functional connectivity; hippocampus; individual differences; intraparietal sulcus; math achievement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Achievement*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Child
  • Hippocampus
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Mathematics
  • Parietal Lobe*