Mathematical reasoning is a core component of cognition and the study of experts defines the upper limits of human cognitive abilities, which is why we are fascinated by peak performers, such as chess masters and mental calculators. Here, we investigated the neural bases of calendrical skills, i.e. the ability to rapidly identify the weekday of a particular date, in a gifted mental calculator who does not fall in the autistic spectrum, using functional MRI. Graph-based mapping of effective connectivity, but not univariate analysis, revealed distinct anatomical location of "cortical hubs" supporting the processing of well-practiced close dates and less-practiced remote dates: the former engaged predominantly occipital and medial temporal areas, whereas the latter were associated mainly with prefrontal, orbitofrontal and anterior cingulate connectivity. These results point to the effect of extensive practice on the development of expertise and long term working memory, and demonstrate the role of frontal networks in supporting performance on less practiced calculations, which incur additional processing demands. Through the example of calendrical skills, our results demonstrate that the ability to perform complex calculations is initially supported by extensive attentional and strategic resources, which, as expertise develops, are gradually replaced by access to long term working memory for familiar material.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)