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, 95 (13), 7836-41

Brain Mechanisms of Quantity Are Similar in 5-year-old Children and Adults

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Brain Mechanisms of Quantity Are Similar in 5-year-old Children and Adults

E Temple et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.

Abstract

Both 5-year-old children and adults determine the quantity of a number by the use of a similar parietal lobe mechanism. Event related potentials indicate that input from Arabic digits and from dot patterns reach areas involved in determining quantity about 200 ms after input. However, voluntary key presses indicating the relation of the input to the quantity five take almost three times as long in children. The ability to trace the networks of brain areas involved in the learning of school subjects should aid in the design and testing of educational methods.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
(a) One of these eight stimuli was presented to subjects as indicated in b. (b) Stimulus presentation occurred 200 ms after the ERP recording epoch had begun and remained present until response. Subject classified stimulus as bigger or smaller than 5. ERP epoch ended after 1,000 ms (800 ms after stimulus onset). The average adult RT was 500 ms; the average 5-year-old RT was 1,600 ms.
Figure 2
Figure 2
A 128-channel geodesic sensor net map of recording sites. Channels 38 and 31 on the 64-channel map are where Dehaene (4) found voltage differences associated with distance. Preliminary analysis showed distance effect at electrode pairs 67 and 78, 66 and 85, 60 and 86, 65 and 91, 71 and 84, and 70 and 90. Results from representative electrode sites 66 and 85 and 65 and 91 are shown here.
Figure 3
Figure 3
Representative posterior channel (91) comparing ERPs in adults and 5-year-olds for a number comparison task. The x-axis is in milliseconds and corresponds to a 1-s epic of recorded EEG (200 ms baseline, 800 ms poststimulus). The y-axis is in microvolts. |∗|, significance at P < 0.5. (a) Notation effects (digits vs. dots). The two age groups show qualitatively similar initial components (P1, N1, and P2p) with only slightly delayed peaks in the 5-year-olds. (b) Digits (close vs. far). ERP distance effect for digits in both age groups. (c) Dots (close vs. far). ERP distance effect for dots in both age groups. Significant differences associated with distance began in children 50 ms after adults despite RTs > 1,000 ms longer.

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