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Math difficulties may reflect problems in a crucial learning system in the brain

Science Daily – Staff Writer

“Children differ substantially in their mathematical abilities. In fact, some children cannot routinely add or subtract, even after extensive schooling. Yet the causes of these problems are not fully understood. Now, two researchers, at Georgetown University Medical Center and Stanford University, have developed a theory of how developmental “math disability” occurs. The article, in a special issue on reading and math in Frontiers in Psychology, proposes that math disability arises from abnormalities in brain areas supporting procedural memory. Procedural memory is a learning and memory system that is crucial for the automatization of non-conscious skills, such as driving or grammar. It depends on a network of brain structures, including the basal ganglia and regions in the frontal and parietal lobes.”(more)

Neuroimaging study: Building blocks activate spatial ability in children better than board games

Medical X-Press – Staff Writer

“Research from Indiana University has found that structured block-building games improve spatial abilities in children to a greater degree than board games. The study, which appears in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, measured the relative impact of two games—a structured block-building game and a word-spelling board game—on children’s spatial processing, including mental rotation, which involves visualizing what an object will look like after it is rotated. The research lends new support to the idea that such block games might help children develop spatial skills needed in science- and math-oriented disciplines. It is also the first study to use neuroimaging to explore the effects of block building on brain activity, said Sharlene Newman, a professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, who led the research.”(more)

Survey: Most parents rely on outdated advice when caring for a child with concussion

Medical X-Press – Staff Writer

“A new national survey, commissioned by UCLA Health, reveals that a vast majority of parents may be following outdated advice when caring for a child with a concussion, and it could be making their child’s symptoms worse. “This survey really illustrates just how far the pendulum has swung in terms of caring for children with concussions,” said Dr. Christopher Giza, a pediatric neurologist and director of the UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program. “In the past, there was often a tendency to downplay the significance of concussions. Now some parents go too far the other direction and, despite their best intentions, they can inadvertently complicate their child’s recovery.” The survey asked 569 parents nationwide how they would care for a child whose concussion symptoms lasted for more than a week. Among the more surprising results, more than 3 out of 4 parents (77 percent) said they would likely wake their child up throughout the night to check on them.”(more)

Important News for Student Athletes: Removal from Play Crucial for Post-Concussion Recovery

Education World – Nicole Gorman

“For student athletes, going back to school also means getting back into the game. After a string of particularly deadly seasons in high school football, some new information about post-concussion recovery is important for student athletes and their support to know. New research indicates that not only could continuing to play after suffering from a concussion a potentially fatal move, it could take the sufferer twice as long to recover.”(more)

Study of brain activity shows that food commercials influence children’s food choices

Science Daily – Staff Writer

“Food advertising is a multi-billion dollar industry, with approximately $1.8 billion annually aimed at children and adolescents, who view between 1,000 and 2,000 ads per year. Some studies have shown that there is a relationship between receptivity to food commercials and the amount and type of food consumed. In a new study scheduled for publication in The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers studied the brain activity of children after watching food commercials and found that the commercials influence children’s food choices and brain activity. Twenty-three children, 8-14 years old, rated 60 food items on how healthy or tasty they were. Dr. Amanda Bruce and researchers from the University of Kansas Medical Center and University of Missouri-Kansas City then studied the children’s brain activity while watching food and non-food commercials and undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). According to Dr. Bruce, “For brain analyses, our primary focus was on the brain region most active during reward valuation, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex.” During the brain scan, children were asked whether they wanted to eat the food items that were shown immediately after the commercials.”(more)

What’s Going On Inside the Brain When We Play Music?

KQED News Mind/Shift – Staff Writer

“Humans love music, especially when there’s repetition that catches the attention. And even though many people listen to music to relax, the brain is doing a lot of work to break apart and understand the music before putting it all together again. Brain scans of people listening to music show many different parts of the brain firing at once, but that’s nothing compared to what’s going on inside the brains of musicians themselves. “Playing music is the brain’s equivalent of a full body workout,” says educator Anita Collins in a TED-Ed video on how playing music benefits the brain. Playing music requires the visual, auditory, and motor cortices all at once and since fine motor skills require both hemispheres of the brain, the act of playing music may strengthen the bridge between the two sides.”(more)