In number comparison tasks, the performance is better when the distance between the numbers to compare increases. It has been shown that this so-called numerical distance effect (NDE) decreases with age but the neuroanatomical correlates of these age-related changes are poorly known. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we recorded the brain activity changes in children aged from 8 to 14 years while they performed a number comparison task on pairs of Arabic digits and a control color comparison task on non-numerical symbols. On the one hand, we observed developmental changes in the recruitment of frontal regions and the left intraparietal sulcus (IPS), with lower activation as age increased. On the other hand, we found that a behavioral index of selective sensitivity to the NDE was positively correlated with higher brain activity in a right lateralized occipito-temporo-parietal network including the IPS. This leads us to propose that the left IPS would be engaged in the refinement of cognitive processes involved in number comparison during development, while the right IPS would underlie the semantic representation of numbers and its activation would be mainly affected by the numerical proximity between them.
Mussolin, C., Noël, M. P., Pesenti, M., Grandin, C., & De Volder, A. G. (2013). Neural correlates of the numerical distance effect in children. Frontiers in Psychology, 4(OCT). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00663