Hide/Show Apps

Tangram solved? Prefrontal cortex activation analysis during geometric problem solving

2012-09-01
Ayaz, Hasan
Shewokis, Patricia A.
Izzetoglu, Meltem
Çakır, Murat Perit
Onaral, Banu
Recent neuroimaging studies have implicated prefrontal and parietal cortices for mathematical problem solving. Mental arithmetic tasks have been used extensively to study neural correlates of mathematical reasoning. In the present study we used geometric problem sets (tangram tasks) that require executive planning and visuospatial reasoning without any linguistic representation interference. We used portable optical brain imaging (functional near infrared spectroscopy - fNIR) to monitor hemodynamic changes within anterior prefrontal cortex during tangram tasks. Twelve healthy subjects were asked to solve a series of computerized tangram puzzles and control tasks that required same geometric shape manipulation without problem solving. Total hemoglobin (HbT) concentration changes indicated a significant increase during tangram problem solving in the right hemisphere. Moreover, HbT changes during failed trials (when no solution found) were significantly higher compared to successful trials. These preliminary results suggest that fNIR can be used to assess cortical activation changes induced by geometric problem solving. Since fNIR is safe, wearable and can be used in ecologically valid environments such as classrooms, this neuroimaging tool may help to improve and optimize learning in educational settings.