Longitudinal brain development of numerical skills in typically developing children and children with developmental dyscalculia

Développement cérébral longitudinal des compétences numériques chez les enfants au développement "typique" et chez les enfants atteints de dyscalculie développementale

SCIENTIFIC ARTICLE / ARTICLE SCIENTIFIQUE

McCaskey, U., von Aster, M., Maurer, U., Martin, E., O'Gorman Tuura, R., & Kucian, K. (2017). Longitudinal brain development of numerical skills in typically developing children and children with developmental dyscalculia. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience11, 629.

DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2017.00629

Abstract

Developmental dyscalculia (DD) is a learning disability affecting the acquisition of numerical-arithmetical skills. Studies report persistent deficits in number processing and aberrant functional activation of the fronto-parietal numerical network in DD. However, the neural development of numerical abilities has been scarcely investigated. The present paper provides a first attempt to investigate behavioral and neural trajectories of numerical abilities longitudinally in typically developing (TD) and DD children. During a study period of 4 years, 28 children (8–11 years) were evaluated twice by means of neuropsychological tests and a numerical order fMRI paradigm. Over time, TD children improved in numerical abilities and showed a consistent and well-developed fronto-parietal network. In contrast, DD children revealed persistent deficits in number processing and arithmetic. Brain imaging results of the DD group showed an age-related activation increase in parietal regions (intraparietal sulcus), pointing to a delayed development of number processing areas. Besides, an activation increase in frontal areas was observed over time, indicating the use of compensatory mechanisms. In conclusion, results suggest a continuation in neural development of number representation in DD, whereas the neural network for simple ordinal number estimation seems to be stable or show only subtle changes in TD children over time.

Keywords
Brain development, Child, Developmental dyscalculia, Longitudinal, Number processing