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Neuro-cognitive plasticity (until 2020)

Junior Research Group Neuro-cognitive Plasticity  (Until 2020)

The former junior research group Neuro-cognitive plasticity (2012-2020) was particularly interested in the neural foundations of knowledge acquisition and knowledge application. We pursued this goal by evaluating current neuro-scientific theories systematically using state of the art neurocognitive methodologies such as fMRI, DTI, computational modeling, eye-tracking, tDCS, VLSM, VBM et cetera. The topical focus of the junior research group is on numerical cognition with particular interest being paid to the neural correlates of number processing as well as its development during childhood. Generally, numerical / arithmetical capabilities (e.g., understanding smaller/larger relations) are among the key competencies for living at the beginning of the 21st century. Related deficiencies not only entail severe consequences for the life prospects of individuals but also lead to immense societal costs. Because an adequate development of numerical competencies during childhood is a prerequisite for later numerical / arithmetical capabilities, research on the acquisition and application of numerical knowledge is of specific relevance.


Moreover, in the context of the newly emerging field of Educational Neuroscience increasing international research interest is paid to the neural underpinnings and correlates of numerical cognition in general and numerical learning in particular. Thereby, it is intended to improve our understanding of the relationship between behavior and its neural origins in the human brain. The junior research group picked up on this recent development. Apart from basic research addressing the processes and representations involved in numerical cognition we were particularly interested in the development of numerical competencies in children, the neurocognitive correlates of numerical learning in adult participants as well as the re-acquisition and rehabilitation of numerical abilities following brain damage. Amongst others, we pursued the question if and - if so - in what way learning modulates the processes of numerical cognition and their neural instantiation quantitatively and/or qualitatively. In this respect we were specifically concerned with aspects of the (media) design of numerical trainings (e.g., embodied approaches, direct neural stimulation, etc.) and the issue whether and/or in how far numerical training affects the activation pattern of recruited brain areas, the neuroplasticity of the neural fiber tracts involved, and, in the case of brain damage, cortical reorganization.


The junior research group ended with Korbinian Moeller starting a position as professor of mathematical cognition at Loughborouh University (United Kingdom) in April 2020. The remaining projects of the former junior research group will be completed at the IWM with Dr. Stefanie Jung as project coordinator.

                                       

Projects

Benefits of a game-based cognitive interface for knowledge work – from basic effects and neural correlates to neuropsychological rehabilitation

From a psychological perspective, digital games for learning can be described as a cognitive interface, transferring knowledge between the individual and a digital environment. Importantly, game-based learning environments provide engaging interfaces between individuals and digital information environments to augment and potentially outperform traditional educational settings. This is particularly important for knowledge-intensive contexts (requiring ‘knowledge work’), such as numerical and mathematical cognition, which is of considerable importance in everyday life. Therefore, in the current project we evaluate the benefit of an adaptive game-based cognitive interface for conceptual number knowledge.

Development of geometrical competences in early childhood

Mathematics is also denoted the science of structures and patterns. This fact becomes obvious when considering geometric forms and figures. When children first engage in games with, for instance, building blocks or puzzles during early childhood, they are already dealing with such basic geometric patterns and structures. The project “Development of geometrical competences in early childhood” aims at investigating how basic geometrical skills develop and how they may be trained successfully in kindergarten.

How digits help digits: Relevance and development of finger motor skills and finger-based strategies in the context of early numerical learning

Numerical cognition has long been considered the perfect example of abstract information processing. However, in recent years there is accumulating evidence suggesting that the representation of number magnitude presents a specific case of embodied cognition. In particular, this refers to the idea that the way we process numbers is – at least partly - grounded in sensory and bodily experiences such as finger counting and calculating. Against this background, this project aims at investigating how finger sensory and motor skills and finger-based strategies contribute to the development of numerical abilities in children.

Influence of Task Switching on Number Processing

Recent research indicates that success in modern life at the beginning of the 21st century is associated substantially with the ability to appropriately handle numbers. Therefore, research on the representation of numbers and their cognitive underpinnings of numerical abilities is highly relevant. In this project influences of cognitive control on number processing will be evaluated.

Former Projects