Mathematical and numerical competence is a critical foundation for individual success in modern society yet the neurobiological sources of individual differences in math competence are poorly understood. Neuroimaging research over the last decade suggests that neural mechanisms in the parietal lobe, particularly the intraparietal sulcus (IPS) are structurally aberrant in individuals with mathematical learning disabilities. However, whether those same brain regions underlie individual differences in math performance across the full range of math abilities is unknown. Furthermore, previous studies have been exclusively cross-sectional, making it unclear whether variations in the structure of the IPS are caused by or consequences of the development of math skills. The present study investigates the relation between grey matter volume across the whole brain and math competence longitudinally in a representative sample of 50 elementary school children. Results show that grey matter volume in the left IPS at the end of 1st grade relates to math competence a year later at the end of 2nd grade. Grey matter volume in this region did not change over that year, and was still correlated with math competence at the end of 2nd grade. These findings support the hypothesis that the IPS and its associated functions represent a critical foundation for the acquisition of mathematical competence.
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