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Neuro-cognitive plasticity

Junior Research Group Neuro-cognitive Plasticity

The junior research group Neuro-cognitive plasticity is particularly interested in the neural foundations of knowledge acquisition and knowledge application. We pursue 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 picks up on this recent development. Apart from basic research addressing the processes and representations involved in numerical cognition we are 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 pursue 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 are 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.

Team Neuro-cognitive plasticity

Projects

A genetic and cross-linguistic Brazilian-German approach to children's numerical development

Numeracy is critical for individual life and career prospects. However, persistent difficulties with numeracy occur in about 3-6% of the population. Numerical difficulties seem to have several causes ranging from cognitive to environmental to genetic influences. This project aims at integrating research on the cognitive and genetic underpinnings of typical and atypical numerical development in children.

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.

Coding to foster computational thinking through playing and creating

Being able to code or program reflects a crucial 21st century skill. Coding as a practical skill shares common concepts with the psychological construct of Computational Thinking (CT) as a cognitive ability. CT denotes the idea of developing a generic solution to a problem by decomposing it, identifying relevant variables and patterns, and deriving an algorithmic solution procedure. In the current project a Hector Core Course is developed and evaluated, which aims at fostering CT by teaching children to code.

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.

From cognitive processes to brain hodology

In this habilitation project the neural foundations of number processing and calculation as well as neural plasticity in (numerical) learning are investigated. A central aspect of this research is how neuro-functional brain areas interact with each other in cognitive processes via neuro-structural connections within the brain and how this interaction changes through learning processes.

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.

Learning analytics for sensor-based adaptive learning

The ubiquitous availability of smartphones, tablets and tracking wristbands enables us to gather and process personal sensor data. It is unclear, however, how these sensor data can be used to create a personalized and adaptive learning experience. In the current project we examine whether metrics can be derived from sensors in order to support learning as well as teaching scenarios in different contexts of learning.

Neurocognitive foundations and processing pathways of arithmetic learning and their plasticity in adults as well as in typically and atypically developing children

In this project, we investigate neural plasticity of the human brain during (numerical) learning as well as the neuro-cognitive foundations of number processing and calculation using neuroimaging techniques (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Diffusion Tensor Imaging). The aim is to determine which brain regions underlie calculation, how these regions interact with each other via fiber pathways, and how these interaction processes are modified by learning processes.

Former Projects