Functional MRI studies of mental arithmetic consistently report blood oxygen level-dependent signals in the parietal and frontal regions. We tested whether white matter pathways connecting these regions are related to mental arithmetic ability by using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to measure these pathways in 28 children (age 10-15 years, 14 girls) and assessing their mental arithmetic skills. For each child, we identified anatomically the anterior portion of the superior longitudinal fasciculus (aSLF), a pathway connecting parietal and frontal cortex. We measured fractional anisotropy in a core region centered along the length of the aSLF. Fractional anisotropy in the left aSLF positively correlates with arithmetic approximation skill, as measured by a mental addition task with approximate answer choices. The correlation is stable in adjacent core aSLF regions but lower toward the pathway endpoints. The correlation is not explained by shared variance with other cognitive abilities and did not pass significance in the right aSLF. These measurements used DTI, a structural method, to test a specific functional model of mental arithmetic.
View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.0906094106
View details for Web of Science ID 000273178700090
View details for PubMedID 19948963