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The main goal of this study was to investigate the neural substrates of fluid reasoning and visuospatial working memory in adolescents with precocious mathematical ability. The study population comprised two groups of adolescents: 13 math-gifted adolescents and 14 controls with average mathematical skills. Patterns of activation specific to reasoning tasks in math-gifted subjects were examined using functional magnetic resonance images acquired while the subjects were performing Raven's Advanced Progressive Matrices (RAPM) and the Tower of London (TOL) tasks. During the tasks, both groups showed significant activations in the frontoparietal network In the math-gifted group, clusters of activation were always bilateral and more regions were recruited, especially in the right hemisphere. In the TOL task, math-gifted adolescents showed significant hyper-activations relative to controls in the precuneus, superior occipital lobe (BA 19), and medial temporal lobe (BA 39). The maximum differences between the groups were detected during RAPM tasks at the highest level of difficulty, where math-gifted subjects showed significant activations relative to controls in the right inferior parietal lobule (BA 40), anterior cingulated gyrus (BA 32), and frontal (BA 9, and BA 6) areas. Our results support the hypothesis that greater ability for complex mathematical reasoning may be related to more bilateral patterns of activation and that increased activation in the parietal and frontal regions of math-gifted adolescents is associated with enhanced skills in visuospatial processing and logical reasoning.
fmri; visuospatial; working memory; intelligence; complexity; raven matrices; tower of london; spatial working-memory; rostrolateral prefrontal cortex; event-related fmri; posterior parietal cortex; progressive matrices test; london task; mental rotation; cognitive function; neural mechanisms; short forms