Adult brains don’t fully overcome biases that lead to incorrect performance during cognitive development: An fMRI study in young adults completing a Piaget-like task

Gaëlle Leroux, Jeanne Spiess, Laure Zago, Sandrine Rossi, Amélie Lubin, Marie-Renée Turbelin, Bernard Mazoyer, Nathalie Tzourio-Mazoyer, Olivier Houdé, Marc Joliot
Developmental Science. 2009-03-01; 12(2): 326-338
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2008.00785.x

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1. Dev Sci. 2009 Mar;12(2):326-38. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2008.00785.x.

Adult brains don’t fully overcome biases that lead to incorrect performance
during cognitive development: an fMRI study in young adults completing a
Piaget-like task.

Leroux G(1), Spiess J, Zago L, Rossi S, Lubin A, Turbelin MR, Mazoyer B,
Tzourio-Mazoyer N, Houdé O, Joliot M.

Author information:
(1)Groupe d’Imagerie Neurofonctionnelle, Universities of Caen and Paris
Descartes, Caen, France.

A current issue in developmental science is that greater continuity in cognition
between children and adults may exist than is usually appreciated in Piaget-like
(stages or ‘staircase’) models. This phenomenon has been demonstrated at the
behavioural level, but never at the brain level. Here we show with functional
magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), for the first time, that adult brains do not
fully overcome the biases of childhood. More specifically, the aim of this fMRI
study was to evaluate whether the perceptual bias that leads to incorrect
performance during cognitive development in a Piaget-like task is still a bias in
the adult brain and hence requires an executive network to overcome it. Here, we
compared two numerical-judgment tasks, one being a Piaget-like task with
number-length interference (called ‘INT’) and the other being a control task with
number-length covariation (‘COV’). We also used a colour-detection task to
control for stimuli numerosity, spatial distribution, and frequency. Our
behavioural results confirmed that INT remains a difficult task for young adults.
Indeed, response times were significantly higher in INT than in COV. Moreover, we
observed that only in INT did response times increase linearly as a function of
the number of items. The fMRI results indicate that the brain network common to
INT and COV shows a large rightward functional asymmetry, emphasizing the
visuospatial nature of these two tasks. When INT was compared with COV,
activations were found within a right frontal network, including the
pre-supplementary motor area, the anterior cingulate cortex, and the middle
frontal gyrus, which probably reflect detection of the number/length conflict and
inhibition of the ‘length-equals-number’ response strategy. Finally, activations
related to visuospatial and quantitative processing, enhanced or specifically
recruited in the Piaget-like task, were found in bilateral posterior areas.

DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2008.00785.x
PMID: 19143805 [Indexed for MEDLINE]

Auteurs Bordeaux Neurocampus