Parental socioeconomic status and the neural basis of arithmetic: differential relations to verbal and visuo-spatial representations
We examined the relation of parental socioeconomic status (SES) to the neural bases of subtraction in school-age children (9- to 12-year-olds). We independently localized brain regions subserving verbal versus visuo-spatial representations to determine whether the parental SES-related differences in children’s reliance on these neural representations vary as a function of math skill. At higher SES levels, higher skill was associated with greater recruitment of the left temporal cortex, identified by the verbal localizer. At lower SES levels, higher skill was associated with greater recruitment of right parietal cortex, identified by the visuo-spatial localizer. This suggests that depending on parental SES, children engage different neural systems to solve subtraction problems. Furthermore, SES was related to the activation in the left temporal and frontal cortex during the independent verbal localizer task, but it was not related to activation during the independent visuo-spatial localizer task. Differences in activation during the verbal localizer task in turn were related to differences in activation during the subtraction task in right parietal cortex. The relation was stronger at lower SES levels. This result suggests that SES-related differences in the visuo-spatial regions during subtraction might be based in SES-related verbal differences.