Description of Research
We study the brain processes involved in mathematics and reading. Our aim is to identify the most basic and universal neuropsychological processes that underlie both skills. In numeracy, we start by exploring the ability to compare the size of two numbers and the ability to identify the number of objects in an array. Human infants and some non-human species can do these tasks, appropriately adapted, suggesting that these abilities could be a genetically specified 'numerical start-up kit'. We have recently discovered adults who seem to lack it, and this appears responsible for a condition called " dyscalculia" , in which simple arithmetic is severely defective. Currently, we are looking at the brains of good and poor calculators and at genetically abnormal populations with poor basic abilities. For reading, we have focussed on how readers use whole word information and information from parts of words in two very different orthographies. In English, the parts are letters and their corresponding sounds, while in Japanese, the parts are themselves whole characters (Kanji or Kana) corresponding to whole syllables. This has allowed us to identify what is universal and what is script specific in the processes of reading.