All Publications


  • Short-term number sense training recapitulates long-term neurodevelopmental changes from childhood to adolescence. Developmental science Park, Y., Zhang, Y., Chang, H., Menon, V. 2024: e13524

    Abstract

    Number sense is fundamental to the development of numerical problem-solving skills. In early childhood, children establish associations between non-symbolic (e.g., a set of dots) and symbolic (e.g., Arabic numerals) representations of quantity. The developmental estrangement theory proposes that the relationship between non-symbolic and symbolic representations of quantity evolves with age, with increased dissociation across development. Consistent with this theory, recent research suggests that cross-format neural representational similarity (NRS) between non-symbolic and symbolic quantities is correlated with arithmetic fluency in children but not in adolescents. However, it is not known if short-term training (STT) can induce similar changes as long-term development. In this study, children aged 7-10 years underwent a theoretically motivated 4-week number sense training. Using multivariate neural pattern analysis, we investigated whether short-term learning could modify the relation between cross-format NRS and arithmetic skills. Our results revealed a significant correlation between cross-format NRS and arithmetic fluency in distributed brain regions, including the parietal and prefrontal cortices, prior to training. However, this association was no longer observed after training, and multivariate predictive models confirmed these findings. Our findings provide evidence that intensive STT during early childhood can promote behavioral improvements and neural plasticity that resemble and recapitulate long-term neurodevelopmental changes that occur from childhood to adolescence. More generally, our study contributes to our understanding of the malleability of number sense and highlights the potential for targeted interventions to shape neurodevelopmental trajectories in early childhood. RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS: We tested the hypothesis that short-term number sense training induces the dissociation of symbolic numbers from non-symbolic representations of quantity in children. We leveraged a theoretically motivated intervention and multivariate pattern analysis to determine training-induced neurocognitive changes in the relation between number sense and arithmetic problem-solving skills. Neural representational similarity between non-symbolic and symbolic quantity representations was correlated with arithmetic skills before training but not after training. Short-term training recapitulates long-term neurodevelopmental changes associated with numerical problem-solving from childhood to adolescence.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/desc.13524

    View details for PubMedID 38695515

  • Integrated number sense tutoring remediates aberrant neural representations in children with mathematical disabilities. bioRxiv : the preprint server for biology Park, Y., Zhang, Y., Schwartz, F., Iuculano, T., Chang, H., Menon, V. 2024

    Abstract

    Number sense is essential for early mathematical development but it is compromised in children with mathematical disabilities (MD). Here we investigate the impact of a personalized 4-week Integrated Number Sense (INS) tutoring program aimed at improving the connection between nonsymbolic (sets of objects) and symbolic (Arabic numerals) representations in children with MD. Utilizing neural pattern analysis, we found that INS tutoring not only improved cross-format mapping but also significantly boosted arithmetic fluency in children with MD. Critically, the tutoring normalized previously low levels of cross-format neural representations in these children to pre-tutoring levels observed in typically developing, especially in key brain regions associated with numerical cognition. Moreover, we identified distinct, 'inverted U-shaped' neurodevelopmental changes in the MD group, suggesting unique neural plasticity during mathematical skill development. Our findings highlight the effectiveness of targeted INS tutoring for remediating numerical deficits in MD, and offer a foundation for developing evidence-based educational interventions.

    View details for DOI 10.1101/2024.04.09.587577

    View details for PubMedID 38645139

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC11030345

  • Long-term abacus training gains in children are predicted by medial temporal lobe anatomy and circuitry. Developmental science Xie, Y., Chang, H., Zhang, Y., Wang, C., Zhang, Y., Chen, L., Geng, F., Ku, Y., Menon, V., Chen, F. 2024: e13489

    Abstract

    Abacus-based mental calculation (AMC) is a widely used educational tool for enhancing math learning, offering an accessible and cost-effective method for classroom implementation. Despite its universal appeal, the neurocognitive mechanisms that drive the efficacy of AMC training remain poorly understood. Notably, although abacus training relies heavily on the rapid recall of number positions and sequences, the role of memory systems in driving long-term AMC learning remains unknown. Here, we sought to address this gap by investigating the role of the medial temporal lobe (MTL) memory system in predicting long-term AMC training gains in second-grade children, who were longitudinally assessed up to fifth grade. Leveraging multimodal neuroimaging data, we tested the hypothesis that MTL systems, known for their involvement in associative memory, are instrumental in facilitating AMC-induced improvements in math skills. We found that gray matter volume in bilateral MTL, along with functional connectivity between the MTL and frontal and ventral temporal-occipital cortices, significantly predicted learning gains. Intriguingly, greater gray matter volume but weaker connectivity of the posterior parietal cortex predicted better learning outcomes, offering a more nuanced view of brain systems at play in AMC training. Our findings not only underscore the critical role of the MTL memory system in AMC training but also illuminate the neurobiological factors contributing to individual differences in cognitive skill acquisition. RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS: We investigated the role of medial temporal lobe (MTL) memory system in driving children's math learning following abacus-based mental calculation (AMC) training. AMC training improved math skills in elementary school children across their second and fifth grade. MTL structural integrity and functional connectivity with prefrontal and ventral temporal-occipital cortices predicted long-term AMC training-related gains.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/desc.13489

    View details for PubMedID 38421061

  • Atypical cognitive training-induced learning and brain plasticity and their relation to insistence on sameness in children with autism. eLife Liu, J., Chang, H., Abrams, D. A., Kang, J. B., Lang, C., Rosenberg-Lee, M., Menon, V. 2023; 12

    Abstract

    Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) often display atypical learning styles, however little is known regarding learning-related brain plasticity and its relation to clinical phenotypic features. Here, we investigate cognitive learning and neural plasticity using functional brain imaging and a novel numerical problem-solving training protocol. Children with ASD showed comparable learning relative to typically developing children but were less likely to shift from rule-based to memory-based strategy. While learning gains in typically developing children were associated with greater plasticity of neural representations in the medial temporal lobe and intraparietal sulcus, learning in children with ASD was associated with more stable neural representations. Crucially, the relation between learning and plasticity of neural representations was moderated by insistence on sameness, a core phenotypic feature of ASD. Our study uncovers atypical cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying learning in children with ASD, and informs pedagogical strategies for nurturing cognitive abilities in childhood autism.

    View details for DOI 10.7554/eLife.86035

    View details for PubMedID 37534879

  • Replicable patterns of memory impairments in children with autism and their links to hyperconnected brain circuits. Biological psychiatry. Cognitive neuroscience and neuroimaging Liu, J., Chen, L., Chang, H., Rudoler, J., Belal Ai-Zughoul, A., Kang, J. B., Abrams, D. A., Menon, V. 2023

    Abstract

    BACKGROUND: Memory impairments have profound implications for social communication and educational outcomes in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, the precise nature of memory dysfunction in children with ASD and the underlying neural circuit mechanisms remain poorly understood. The default mode network (DMN) is a brain network that is associated with memory and cognitive function, and DMN dysfunction is among the most replicable and robust brain signatures of ASD.METHODS: We employed a comprehensive battery of standardized episodic memory assessments and functional circuit analyses in 8-12-year-old 25 children with ASD and 29 matched typically developing controls.RESULTS: Memory performance was reduced in children with ASD, compared to controls. General and face memory emerged as distinct dimensions of memory difficulties in ASD. Importantly, findings of diminished episodic memory in children with ASD were replicated in two independent data sets. Analysis of intrinsic functional circuits associated with the DMN revealed that general and face memory deficits were associated with distinct, hyperconnected circuits: aberrant hippocampal connectivity predicted diminished general memory while aberrant posterior cingulate cortex connectivity predicted diminished face memory. Notably, aberrant hippocampal-posterior cingulate cortex circuitry was a common feature of diminished general and face memory in ASD.CONCLUSIONS: Results represent a comprehensive appraisal of episodic memory function in children with ASD and identify extensive and replicable patterns of memory reductions in children with ASD that are linked to dysfunction of distinct DMN-related circuits. Findings highlight a role for DMN dysfunction in ASD that extends beyond face memory to general memory function.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.bpsc.2023.05.002

    View details for PubMedID 37196984

  • Atypical cognitive training-induced learning and brain plasticity and their relation to insistence on sameness in children with autism. bioRxiv : the preprint server for biology Liu, J., Chang, H., Abrams, D. A., Kang, J. B., Chen, L., Rosenberg-Lee, M., Menon, V. 2023

    Abstract

    Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) often display atypical learning styles, however little is known regarding learning-related brain plasticity and its relation to clinical phenotypic features. Here, we investigate cognitive learning and neural plasticity using functional brain imaging and a novel numerical problem-solving training protocol. Children with ASD showed comparable learning relative to typically developing children but were less likely to shift from rule-based to memory-based strategy. Critically, while learning gains in typically developing children were associated with greater plasticity of neural representations in the medial temporal lobe and intraparietal sulcus, learning in children with ASD was associated with more stable neural representations. Crucially, the relation between learning and plasticity of neural representations was moderated by insistence on sameness, a core phenotypic feature of ASD. Our study uncovers atypical cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying learning in children with ASD, and informs pedagogical strategies for nurturing cognitive abilities in childhood autism.

    View details for DOI 10.1101/2023.01.25.525594

    View details for PubMedID 36747659

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC9900852

  • Cognitive training enhances growth mindset in children through plasticity of cortico-striatal circuits. NPJ science of learning Chen, L., Chang, H., Rudoler, J., Arnardottir, E., Zhang, Y., de Los Angeles, C., Menon, V. 2022; 7 (1): 30

    Abstract

    Growth mindset, the belief that one's abilities can improve through cognitive effort, is an important psychological construct with broad implications for enabling children to reach their highest potential. However, surprisingly little is known about malleability of growth mindset in response to cognitive interventions in children and its neurobiological underpinnings. Here we address critical gaps in our knowledge by investigating behavioral and brain changes in growth mindset associated with a four-week training program designed to enhance foundational, academically relevant, cognitive skills in 7-10-year-old children. Cognitive training significantly enhanced children's growth mindset. Cross-lagged panel analysis of longitudinal pre- and post-training data revealed that growth mindset prior to training predicted cognitive abilities after training, providing support for the positive role of growth mindset in fostering academic achievement. We then examined training-induced changes in brain response and connectivity associated with problem solving in relation to changes in growth mindset. Children's gains in growth mindset were associated with increased neural response and functional connectivity of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, striatum, and hippocampus, brain regions crucial for cognitive control, motivation, and memory. Plasticity of cortico-striatal circuitry emerged as the strongest predictor of growth mindset gains. Taken together, our study demonstrates that children's growth mindset can be enhanced by cognitive training, and elucidates the potential neurobiological mechanisms underlying its malleability. Findings provide important insights into effective interventions that simultaneously promote growth mindset and learning during the early stages of cognitive development.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41539-022-00146-7

    View details for PubMedID 36371438

  • Foundational number sense training gains are predicted by hippocampal-parietal circuits. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience Chang, H., Chen, L., Zhang, Y., Xie, Y., de Los Angeles, C., Adair, E., Zanitti, G., Wassermann, D., Rosenberg-Lee, M., Menon, V. 2022

    Abstract

    The development of mathematical skills in early childhood relies on number sense, the foundational ability to discriminate between quantities. Number sense in early childhood is predictive of academic and professional success, and deficits in number sense are thought to underlie lifelong impairments in mathematical abilities. Despite its importance, the brain circuit mechanisms that support number sense learning remain poorly understood. Here, we designed a theoretically motivated training program to determine brain circuit mechanisms underlying foundational number sense learning in female and male elementary school-aged children (ages 7-10). Our four-week integrative number sense training program gradually strengthened the understanding of the relations between symbolic (Arabic numerals) and non-symbolic (sets of items) representations of quantity. We found that our number sense training program improved symbolic quantity discrimination ability in children across a wide a range of math abilities including those with learning difficulties. Crucially, the strength of pre-training functional connectivity between the hippocampus and intraparietal sulcus, brain regions implicated in associative learning and quantity discrimination, respectively, predicted individual differences in number sense learning across typically developing children and children with learning difficulties. Reverse meta-analysis of inter-regional co-activations across 14,371 fMRI studies and 89 cognitive functions confirmed a reliable role for hippocampal-intraparietal-sulcus circuits in learning. Our study identifies a canonical hippocampal-parietal circuit for learning which plays a foundational role in children's cognitive skill acquisition. Findings provide important insights into neurobiological circuit markers of individual differences in children's learning and delineate a robust target for effective cognitive interventions.Significance StatementMathematical skill development relies on number sense, the ability to discriminate between quantities. Here, we develop a theoretically motivated training program and investigate brain circuits that predict number sense learning in children during a period important for acquisition of foundational cognitive skills. Our integrated number sense training program was effective in children across a wide a range of math abilities, including children with learning difficulties. We identify hippocampal-parietal circuits that predict individual differences in learning gains. Our study identifies a novel brain circuit predictive of the acquistion of foundational number sense skills and delineates a robust target for effective interventions and monitoring response to cognitive training.

    View details for DOI 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1005-21.2022

    View details for PubMedID 35410879

  • Neural representational similarity between symbolic and non-symbolic quantities predicts arithmetic skills in childhood but not adolescence DEVELOPMENTAL SCIENCE Schwartz, F., Zhang, Y., Chang, H., Karraker, S., Kang, J., Menon, V. 2021

    Abstract

    Mathematical knowledge is constructed hierarchically from basic understanding of quantities and the symbols that denote them. Discrimination of numerical quantity in both symbolic and non-symbolic formats has been linked to mathematical problem-solving abilities. However, little is known of the extent to which overlap in quantity representations between symbolic and non-symbolic formats is related to individual differences in numerical problem solving and whether this relation changes with different stages of development and skill acquisition. Here we investigate the association between neural representational similarity (NRS) across symbolic and non-symbolic quantity discrimination and arithmetic problem-solving skills in early and late developmental stages: elementary school children (ages 7-10 years) and adolescents and young adults (AYA, ages 14-21 years). In children, cross-format NRS in distributed brain regions, including parietal and frontal cortices and the hippocampus, was positively correlated with arithmetic skills. In contrast, no brain region showed a significant association between cross-format NRS and arithmetic skills in the AYA group. Our findings suggest that the relationship between symbolic-non-symbolic NRS and arithmetic skills depends on developmental stage. Taken together, our study provides evidence for both mapping and estrangement hypotheses in the context of numerical problem solving, albeit over different cognitive developmental stages.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/desc.13123

    View details for Web of Science ID 000656424000001

    View details for PubMedID 34060183

  • Emerging neurodevelopmental perspectives on mathematical learning. Developmental review : DR Menon, V., Chang, H. 2021; 60

    Abstract

    Strong foundational skills in mathematical problem solving, acquired in early childhood, are critical not only for success in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematical (STEM) fields but also for quantitative reasoning in everyday life. The acquisition of mathematical skills relies on protracted interactive specialization of functional brain networks across development. Using a systems neuroscience approach, this review synthesizes emerging perspectives on neurodevelopmental pathways of mathematical learning, highlighting the functional brain architecture that supports these processes and sources of heterogeneity in mathematical skill acquisition. We identify the core neural building blocks of numerical cognition, anchored in the posterior parietal and ventral temporal-occipital cortices, and describe how memory and cognitive control systems, anchored in the medial temporal lobe and prefrontal cortex, help scaffold mathematical skill development. We highlight how interactive specialization of functional circuits influences mathematical learning across different stages of development. Functional and structural brain integrity and plasticity associated with math learning can be examined using an individual differences approach to better understand sources of heterogeneity in learning, including cognitive, affective, motivational, and sociocultural factors. Our review emphasizes the dynamic role of neurodevelopmental processes in mathematical learning and cognitive development more generally.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.dr.2021.100964

    View details for PubMedID 34108794

  • Neurocognitive modeling of latent memory processes reveals reorganization of hippocampal-cortical circuits underlying learning and efficient strategies. Communications biology Supekar, K., Chang, H., Mistry, P. K., Iuculano, T., Menon, V. 2021; 4 (1): 405

    Abstract

    Efficient memory-based problem-solving strategies are a cardinal feature of expertise across a wide range of cognitive domains in childhood. However, little is known about the neurocognitive mechanisms that underlie the acquisition of efficient memory-based problem-solving strategies. Here we develop, to the best of our knowledge, a novel neurocognitive process model of latent memory processes to investigate how cognitive training designed to improve children's problem-solving skills alters brain network organization and leads to increased use and efficiency of memory retrieval-based strategies. We found that training increased both the use and efficiency of memory retrieval. Functional brain network analysis revealed training-induced changes in modular network organization, characterized by increase in network modules and reorganization of hippocampal-cortical circuits. Critically, training-related changes in modular network organization predicted performance gains, with emergent hippocampal, rather than parietal cortex, circuitry driving gains in efficiency of memory retrieval. Our findings elucidate a neurocognitive process model of brain network mechanisms that drive learning and gains in children's efficient problem-solving strategies.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s42003-021-01872-1

    View details for PubMedID 33767350

  • Faster learners transfer their knowledge better: Behavioral, mnemonic, and neural mechanisms of individual differences in children’s learning DEVELOPMENTAL COGNITIVE NEUROSCIENCE Chang, H., Rosenberg-Lee, M., Qin, S., Menon, V. 2019; 40: 1-14
  • Simple arithmetic: not so simple for highly math anxious individuals SOCIAL COGNITIVE AND AFFECTIVE NEUROSCIENCE Chang, H., Sprute, L., Maloney, E. A., Beilock, S. L., Berman, M. G. 2017; 12 (12): 1940–49
  • The math anxiety-math performance link and its relation to individual and environmental factors: a review of current behavioral and psychophysiological research CURRENT OPINION IN BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES Chang, H., Beilock, S. L. 2016; 10: 33–38
  • On the relationship between math anxiety and math achievement in early elementary school: The role of problem solving strategies JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL CHILD PSYCHOLOGY Ramirez, G., Chang, H., Maloney, E. A., Levine, S. C., Beilock, S. L. 2016; 141: 83–100

    Abstract

    Even at young ages, children self-report experiencing math anxiety, which negatively relates to their math achievement. Leveraging a large dataset of first and second grade students' math achievement scores, math problem solving strategies, and math attitudes, we explored the possibility that children's math anxiety (i.e., a fear or apprehension about math) negatively relates to their use of more advanced problem solving strategies, which in turn relates to their math achievement. Our results confirm our hypothesis and, moreover, demonstrate that the relation between math anxiety and math problem solving strategies is strongest in children with the highest working memory capacity. Ironically, children who have the highest cognitive capacity avoid using advanced problem solving strategies when they are high in math anxiety and, as a result, underperform in math compared with their lower working memory peers.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.jecp.2015.07.014

    View details for Web of Science ID 000364882100006

    View details for PubMedID 26342473

  • The Odd-Even Effect in Sudoku Puzzles: Effects of Working Memory, Aging, and Experience AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PSYCHOLOGY Chang, H., Gibson, J. M. 2011; 124 (3): 313–24

    Abstract

    The odd-even effect in numerical processing has been explained as the easier processing of even numbers compared with odd numbers. We investigated this effect in Sudoku puzzles, a reasoning problem that uses numbers but does not require arithmetic operations. Specifically, we asked whether the odd-even effect occurred with Sudoku puzzles and whether individual differences in working memory (WM), aging, and experience with Sudoku modulated this effect. We manipulated the presence of odd and even numbers in Sudoku puzzles, measured WM with the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test and backward digit span task, tested older and younger adults, and collected Sudoku experience frequency. Performance on Sudoku was more accurate for even puzzles than odd ones. Younger, experienced, and higher-WM participants were more accurate on Sudoku, but these individual difference variables did not interact with the odd-even effect. Odd numbers may impose more cognitive load than even numbers, but future research is needed to examine how age, experience, or WM may influence the odd-even effect.

    View details for DOI 10.5406/amerjpsyc.124.3.0313

    View details for Web of Science ID 000297864700006

    View details for PubMedID 21977693

  • Prefrontal and limbic dysregulation during emotional processing in bipolar disorder: a functional magnetic resonance imaging meta-analyses Brooks, J. O., Chang, H. S., Bearden, C. E., Glahn, D. C. WILEY-BLACKWELL. 2011: 32–33
  • Dysregulated Activation of Prefrontal and Limbic Regions in Emotional Processing in Bipolar Disorder: A Meta-Analysis Brooks, J. O., Chang, H., Bearden, C. E., Glahn, D. C. ELSEVIER SCIENCE INC. 2010: 135S
  • Metabolic Risks in Older Adults Receiving Second-Generation Antipsychotic Medication CURRENT PSYCHIATRY REPORTS Brooks, J. O., Chang, H., Krasnykh, O. 2009; 11 (1): 33–40

    Abstract

    Metabolic syndrome is prevalent in older adults and increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Second-generation antipsychotics (aripiprazole, clozapine, olanzapine, quetiapine, risperidone, and ziprasidone) increase the risk of metabolic syndrome and present many challenges for psychiatrists. In this article, we review the relationships between second-generation antipsychotics and metabolic syndrome with a focus on older adults. Because few studies focus exclusively on older adults, we augment this review with relevant findings from younger adults. The differential risk factors of each medication are reviewed, as are recent findings in monitoring and treating metabolic syndrome. Olanzapine and clozapine are more strongly associated with metabolic risks, whereas aripiprazole and ziprasidone are less associated. Although lifestyle modifications can help to reduce some aspects of metabolic syndrome, lifestyle modifications in conjunction with metformin therapy appear to be most effective.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s11920-009-0006-0

    View details for Web of Science ID 000207901500010

    View details for PubMedID 19187706