Brain scan can show later math performance

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Future math achievements can be seen in the brain

According to a US study, it can be seen in the brain whether a primary school student will have a good or rather poor understanding of mathematics in later life: An early brain scan could provide information about future performance, but it could also be used to estimate to what extent math training would affect the kids.

Children acquire mathematical knowledge at different speeds. According to this, the size and networking of the brain part of the hippocampus in particular would provide information about how the students' performance in mathematics would develop, as the researchers led by Kaustubh Supekar from Stanford University School of Medicine (USA / California) currently report in the "Proceedings" of the US Academy of Sciences ("PNAS"). Since it would appear that some students would find it easier to learn math than others, it is important for the scientists to understand the connections here: “Especially today, when the ability to acquire mathematical knowledge efficiently is more crucial than ever for academic ones and professional success, little is known about the behavioral and neuronal mechanisms responsible for making some children seem to acquire these skills faster than others, ”the researchers said in the abstract of their study.

Researchers from Stanford University examine 24 elementary school students. To this end, Kaustubh Supekar and his team examined 24 elementary school children aged eight and nine years in a relatively small study and, in a first step, determined the size and activity of various brain areas with the help of an MRI scanner. The researchers also collected additional data about the children, such as reading ability, memory performance and the intelligence quotient. Afterwards, the students each completed a mathematics individual course for eight weeks, in which basic mathematical knowledge was imparted and practiced.

One-to-one tuition leads to improvements without exception After the end of the one-to-one tuition, the researchers came to an interesting result: All of the students had improved through the training hours and were now calculating faster, more efficiently and more error-free, but the degree of improvement varied. In order to find an explanation for this phenomenon, the researchers then went in search of a connection with the previously determined data on intelligence quotient, reading ability, etc., and finally came to the conclusion that none of these factors would say anything about how strong an effect was Child would benefit from math training - for example, with a child with a high IQ, the tutoring does not automatically lead to better performance.

Connection between hippocampus and later math success Instead, the scientists discovered that the hippocampus obviously plays a central role here, because there was a connection between its volume and the networking with other brain regions and the later success of mathematics teaching.

According to the scientists, the importance of the hippocampus in memory formation is not new - but that this part of the brain, which acts as a central switching station of the limbic system, is also only of minor importance in connection with learning math, so far been observed. The results of the researchers would generally show that "quantitative measurements of the structure of the brain and the intrinsic organization of the brain represent a more sensitive marker for the acquisition of skills than behavior-based measurements." (Nr)

Image: Gerd Altmann /

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