Visual Short Term Memory Related Brain Activity Predicts Mathematical Abilities

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Abstract

Objective: Previous research suggests visual short-term memory (VSTM) capacity and mathematical abilities are significantly related. Moreover, both processes activate similar brain regions within the parietal cortex, in particular, the intraparietal sulcus; however, it is still unclear whether the neuronal underpinnings of VSTM directly correlate with mathematical operation and reasoning abilities. The main objective was to investigate the association between parieto-occipital brain activity during the retention period of a VSTM task and performance in mathematics. Method: The authors measured mathematical abilities and VSTM capacity as well as brain activity during memory maintenance using magnetoencephalography (MEG) in 19 healthy adult participants. Event-related magnetic fields (ERFs) were computed on the MEG data. Linear regressions were used to estimate the strength of the relation between VSTM related brain activity and mathematical abilities. Results: The amplitude of parieto-occipital cerebral activity during the retention of visual information was related to performance in 2 standardized mathematical tasks: mathematical reasoning and calculation fluency. Conclusions: The findings show that brain activity during retention period of a VSTM task is associated with mathematical abilities. Contributions of VSTM processes to numerical cognition should be considered in cognitive interventions.

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