Professional Education

  • PhD, Universite Lyon 1, Neuroscience, Cognitive Science (2017)
  • M.S., Universite Lyon 1, Neuroscience (2014)
  • B.S., Universite Lyon 1, Biology (2012)

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

How is brain development related to learning, and more specifically, to the acquisition of logical and numerical concepts? How come that some children struggle with math, while others can learn it effortlessly? My current research uses behavioral and neuroimaging methods to answer these questions. I am also very interested in how the cognitive bases of logical reasoning and mathematical skills allow children to understand the rules of the social world.

Lab Affiliations

  • Vinod Menon, Stanford Cognitive and Systems Neuroscience Lab (4/10/2018)

All Publications

  • The neural development of pragmatic inference-making in natural discourse DEVELOPMENTAL SCIENCE Schwartz, F., Epinat-Duclos, J., Noveck, I., Prado, J. 2018; 21 (6): e12678


    Older interlocutors are more likely than younger ones to make pragmatic inferences, that is, inferences that go beyond the linguistically encoded meaning of a sentence. Here we ask whether pragmatic development is associated with increased activity in brain structures associated with inference-making or in those associated with Theory of Mind. We employed a reading task that presents vignettes in one of two versions, one of which is expected to prompt more pragmatic processing. Both versions present a major premise containing three possibilities (e.g., Xavier is considering Thursday, Friday or Saturday for inviting his girlfriend out). In the Fully-Deductive (control) condition, the major premise is followed by two disjunction-elimination premises through two separate lines (one indicating that Saturday is not convenient and another saying that Thursday is not convenient); this is followed by a valid conclusion (e.g., "I'll reserve Friday"). In the Implicated-Premise condition, the first disjunction-elimination premise is followed by a second similar one that eliminates the same disjunction (e.g., both lines explain why Saturday is not convenient). In this condition, readers may pragmatically enrich the conclusion (i.e., "I'll reserve Friday" pragmatically implicates that Xavier is also eliminating Thursday from consideration). Reading times in Experiment 1 showed that processing the speaker's conclusion in the Implicated-Premise condition becomes increasingly more effort-demanding as readers reach adolescence. Experiment 2 showed that this developmental pattern is related to age-related increases in fMRI activity in fronto-parietal regions typically involved in inference-making processes. We found no evidence indicating age effects related to Theory of Mind areas.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/desc.12678

    View details for Web of Science ID 000448269700015

    View details for PubMedID 30028059

  • Impaired neural processing of transitive relations in children with math learning difficulty NEUROIMAGE-CLINICAL Schwartz, F., Epinat-Duclos, J., Leone, J., Poisson, A., Prado, J. 2018; 20: 1255–65


    Math learning difficulty (i.e., MLD) is common in children and can have far-reaching consequences in personal and professional life. Converging evidence suggests that MLD is associated with impairments in the intraparietal sulcus (IPS). However, the role that these impairments play in MLD remains unclear. Although it is often assumed that IPS deficits affect core numerical abilities, the IPS is also involved in several non-numerical processes that may contribute to math skills. For instance, the IPS supports transitive reasoning (i.e., the ability to integrate relations such as A > B and B > C to infer that A > C), a skill that is central to many aspects of math learning in children. Here we measured fMRI activity of 8- to 12-year-olds with MLD and typically developing (TD) peers while they listened to stories that included transitive relations. Children also answered questions evaluating whether transitive inferences were made during story comprehension. Compared to non-transitive relations (e.g., A > B and C > D), listening to transitive relations (e.g., A > B and B > C) was associated with enhanced activity in the IPS in TD children. In children with MLD, the difference in activity between transitive and non-transitive relations in the IPS was (i) non-reliable and (ii) smaller than in TD children. Finally, children with MLD were less accurate than TD peers when making transitive inferences based on transitive relations. Thus, a deficit in the online processing of transitive relations in the IPS might contribute to math difficulties in children with MLD.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.nicl.2018.10.020

    View details for Web of Science ID 000450799000133

    View details for PubMedID 30389345

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6308383

  • The neural development of conditional reasoning in children: Different mechanisms for assessing the logical validity and likelihood of conclusions NEUROIMAGE Schwartz, F., Epinat-Duclos, J., Leone, J., Prado, J. 2017; 163: 264–75


    Scientific and mathematical thinking relies on the ability to evaluate whether conclusions drawn from conditional (if-then) arguments are logically valid. Yet, the neural development of this ability -- termed deductive reasoning -- is largely unknown. Here we aimed to identify the neural mechanisms that underlie the emergence of deductive reasoning with conditional rules in children. We further tested whether these mechanisms have their roots in the neural mechanisms involved in judging the likelihood of conclusions. In a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) scanner, 8- to 13-year-olds were presented with causal conditional problems such as "If a baby is hungry then he will start crying; The baby is crying; Is the baby hungry?". In Validity trials, children were asked to indicate whether the conclusion followed out of necessity from the premises. In Likelihood trials, they indicated the degree of likelihood of the conclusion. We found that children who made accurate judgments of logical validity (as compared to those who did not) exhibited enhanced activity in left and medial frontal regions. In contrast, differences in likelihood ratings between children were related to differences of activity in right frontal and bilateral parietal regions. There was no overlap between the brain regions underlying validity and likelihood judgments. Therefore, our results suggest that the ability to evaluate the logical validity of conditional arguments emerges from brain mechanisms that qualitatively differ from those involved in evaluating the likelihood of these arguments in children.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2017.09.029

    View details for Web of Science ID 000418641800022

    View details for PubMedID 28935240