Numbers and the Brain
About Dr. Daniel Ansari
Daniel Ansari is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience Graduate Program at The University of Western Ontario. He also holds the Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience.
One line of his research focuses on working out which brain regions are involved in our ability to calculate. How is brain activation during calculation affected by the particular arithmetic operation being performed (e.g. do different brain regions subserve subtraction and multiplication)? And, does the type of problem-solving strategy result in the use of different brain networks? Together with Dr. Roland Grabner from the ETH in Zurich, Switzerland, he is looking for answers to these questions in search for a better understanding of how the brain enables us to become mathematically fluent.
Study ResultsDaniel Ansari and his colleagues (van Eimeren, Grabner, Koschutnig, Reishofer, Ebner, & Ansari, 2010) took a first step toward an integration of functional data (fMRI) and cortical white matter pathways (DTI) in the domain of calculation. Here, they were able to reveal a direct link between activation levels in the left Angular Gyrus (a grey matter region associated with retrieval of arithmetic facts) during calculation processes and individual differences in white matter integrity (using a measure called Fractional Anisotropy) of the left Superior Corona Radiata.
Daniel Ansari hopes that his analyses of the relationships between individual differences in the strength of cortical white matter pathways and brain activity may help to further constrain theories about their roles in the domain of calculation -- and will add to our understanding of neural networks underlying this and other human abilities.