Neural Correlates of Math Gains Vary Depending on Parental Socioeconomic Status (SES)
We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the neural predictors of math development, and asked whether these predictors vary as a function of parental socioeconomic status (SES) in children ranging in age from 8 to 13 years. We independently localized brain regions subserving verbal versus spatial processing in order to characterize relations between activation in these regions during an arithmetic task and long-term change in math skill (up to 3 years). Neural predictors of math gains encompassed brain regions subserving both verbal and spatial processing, but the relation between relative reliance on these regions and math skill growth varied depending on parental SES. Activity in an area of the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) identified by the verbal localizer was related to greater growth in math skill at the higher end of the SES continuum, but lesser improvements at the lower end. Activity in an area of the right superior parietal cortex identified by the spatial localizer was related to greater growth in math skill at the lower end of the SES continuum, but lesser improvements at the higher end. Results highlight early neural mechanisms as possible neuromarkers of long-term arithmetic learning and suggest that neural predictors of math gains vary with parental SES.