Electrophysiological dynamic brain connectivity during symbolic magnitude comparison in children with different mathematics achievement levels

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Children with mathematical difficulties usually have an impaired ability to process symbolic representations. Functional MRI methods have suggested that early frontoparietal connectivity can predict mathematic achievements; however, the study of brain connectivity during numerical processing remains unexplored. With the aim of evaluating this in children with different math proficiencies, we selected a sample of 40 children divided into two groups [high achievement (HA) and low achievement (LA)] according to their arithmetic scores in the Wide Range Achievement Test, 4th ed.. Participants performed a symbolic magnitude comparison task (i.e. determining which of two numbers is numerically larger), with simultaneous electrophysiological recording. Partial directed coherence and graph theory methods were used to estimate and depict frontoparietal connectivity in both groups. The behavioral measures showed that children with LA performed significantly slower and less accurately than their peers in the HA group. Significantly higher frontocentral connectivity was found in LA compared with HA; however, when the connectivity analysis was restricted to parietal locations, no relevant group differences were observed. These findings seem to support the notion that LA children require greater memory and attentional efforts to meet task demands, probably affecting early stages of symbolic comparison.

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