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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

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.

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.

Math with the Dancemat

Basic research on numerical cognition suggests that numbers are represented along a spatially oriented mental number line. This number line representation is crucial for complex arithmetic procedures as it is associated with children’s understanding of numerical magnitude. Additionally, recent research suggests that the development of the mental number line can be promoted by sensorimotor experiences in accordance with theories of embodied cognition. Accordingly, can children profit from embodied cognition when learning numerical competencies? Are sensorimotor experiences beneficial for learning more complex numerical and arithmetic concepts and procedures?

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