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Aging and the number sense: preserved basic non-symbolic numerical processing and enhanced basic symbolic processing.

Norris JE, McGeown WJ, Guerrini C, Castronovo J - Front Psychol (2015)

Bottom Line: The effect of aging on numerical cognition, particularly on foundational numerical skills known as the number sense, is not well-known.Early research focused on the effect of aging on arithmetic.Results showed that aging had no effect on foundational non-symbolic numerical skills, as both groups performed similarly [RTs, accuracy and Weber fractions (w)].

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Psychology, University of Hull Hull, UK.

ABSTRACT
Aging often leads to general cognitive decline in domains such as memory and attention. The effect of aging on numerical cognition, particularly on foundational numerical skills known as the number sense, is not well-known. Early research focused on the effect of aging on arithmetic. Recent studies have begun to investigate the impact of healthy aging on basic numerical skills, but focused on non-symbolic quantity discrimination alone. Moreover, contradictory findings have emerged. The current study aimed to further investigate the impact of aging on basic non-symbolic and symbolic numerical skills. A group of 25 younger (18-25) and 25 older adults (60-77) participated in non-symbolic and symbolic numerical comparison tasks. Mathematical and spelling abilities were also measured. Results showed that aging had no effect on foundational non-symbolic numerical skills, as both groups performed similarly [RTs, accuracy and Weber fractions (w)]. All participants showed decreased non-symbolic acuity (accuracy and w) in trials requiring inhibition. However, aging appears to be associated with a greater decline in discrimination speed in such trials. Furthermore, aging seems to have a positive impact on mathematical ability and basic symbolic numerical processing, as older participants attained significantly higher mathematical achievement scores, and performed significantly better on the symbolic comparison task than younger participants. The findings suggest that aging and its lifetime exposure to numbers may lead to better mathematical achievement and stronger basic symbolic numerical skills. Our results further support the observation that basic non-symbolic numerical skills are resilient to aging, but that aging may exacerbate poorer performance on trials requiring inhibitory processes. These findings lend further support to the notion that preserved basic numerical skills in aging may reflect the preservation of an innate, primitive, and embedded number sense.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus

The ratio effect on reaction times in the non-symbolic numerical comparison task.
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Figure 1: The ratio effect on reaction times in the non-symbolic numerical comparison task.

Mentions: For further analyses, data were trimmed by applying a 3 SD cut-off for RTs on correct responses (2.11% of data removed). Preliminary analyses indicated that neither group showed a speed-accuracy trade-off (older adults r = 0.18, p > 0.38; younger adults r = 0.34, p = 0.1). To determine the effect of age and ratio on RTs, a 4 (ratio bin) × 2 (age group) mixed ANOVA was conducted, with ratio bin as a within-subject factor, and age group as a between-subject factor. Ratio bin had a main effect on RTs, F(1.52, 72.97) = 156.62, p < 0.001. This reflects the classic ratio effect: the larger the ratio, the faster the responses (Piazza and Izard, 2009). There was no main effect of age group on RTs, as both groups presented similar RTs, F(1,48) = 0.784, p > 0.3 (younger group M = 874 ms, SD = 308, older group M = 923 ms, SD = 360). However, the ratio bin × age group interaction was significant, F(1.52,72.97) = 7.21, p < 0.01 (see Figure 1). To further investigate this interaction, we computed each participant’s linear regression slope for RTs, with ratio bin as a predictor (De Smedt et al., 2009; Castronovo and Göbel, 2012). An independent t-test showed that the non-symbolic ratio effect was significantly more pronounced in the older group (Mean regression slope = -90.15, SD = 35.84) than the younger group (Mean regression slope = -58.70, SD = 38.85), t(48) = 2.98, p < 0.01.


Aging and the number sense: preserved basic non-symbolic numerical processing and enhanced basic symbolic processing.

Norris JE, McGeown WJ, Guerrini C, Castronovo J - Front Psychol (2015)

The ratio effect on reaction times in the non-symbolic numerical comparison task.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4502343&req=5

Figure 1: The ratio effect on reaction times in the non-symbolic numerical comparison task.
Mentions: For further analyses, data were trimmed by applying a 3 SD cut-off for RTs on correct responses (2.11% of data removed). Preliminary analyses indicated that neither group showed a speed-accuracy trade-off (older adults r = 0.18, p > 0.38; younger adults r = 0.34, p = 0.1). To determine the effect of age and ratio on RTs, a 4 (ratio bin) × 2 (age group) mixed ANOVA was conducted, with ratio bin as a within-subject factor, and age group as a between-subject factor. Ratio bin had a main effect on RTs, F(1.52, 72.97) = 156.62, p < 0.001. This reflects the classic ratio effect: the larger the ratio, the faster the responses (Piazza and Izard, 2009). There was no main effect of age group on RTs, as both groups presented similar RTs, F(1,48) = 0.784, p > 0.3 (younger group M = 874 ms, SD = 308, older group M = 923 ms, SD = 360). However, the ratio bin × age group interaction was significant, F(1.52,72.97) = 7.21, p < 0.01 (see Figure 1). To further investigate this interaction, we computed each participant’s linear regression slope for RTs, with ratio bin as a predictor (De Smedt et al., 2009; Castronovo and Göbel, 2012). An independent t-test showed that the non-symbolic ratio effect was significantly more pronounced in the older group (Mean regression slope = -90.15, SD = 35.84) than the younger group (Mean regression slope = -58.70, SD = 38.85), t(48) = 2.98, p < 0.01.

Bottom Line: The effect of aging on numerical cognition, particularly on foundational numerical skills known as the number sense, is not well-known.Early research focused on the effect of aging on arithmetic.Results showed that aging had no effect on foundational non-symbolic numerical skills, as both groups performed similarly [RTs, accuracy and Weber fractions (w)].

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Psychology, University of Hull Hull, UK.

ABSTRACT
Aging often leads to general cognitive decline in domains such as memory and attention. The effect of aging on numerical cognition, particularly on foundational numerical skills known as the number sense, is not well-known. Early research focused on the effect of aging on arithmetic. Recent studies have begun to investigate the impact of healthy aging on basic numerical skills, but focused on non-symbolic quantity discrimination alone. Moreover, contradictory findings have emerged. The current study aimed to further investigate the impact of aging on basic non-symbolic and symbolic numerical skills. A group of 25 younger (18-25) and 25 older adults (60-77) participated in non-symbolic and symbolic numerical comparison tasks. Mathematical and spelling abilities were also measured. Results showed that aging had no effect on foundational non-symbolic numerical skills, as both groups performed similarly [RTs, accuracy and Weber fractions (w)]. All participants showed decreased non-symbolic acuity (accuracy and w) in trials requiring inhibition. However, aging appears to be associated with a greater decline in discrimination speed in such trials. Furthermore, aging seems to have a positive impact on mathematical ability and basic symbolic numerical processing, as older participants attained significantly higher mathematical achievement scores, and performed significantly better on the symbolic comparison task than younger participants. The findings suggest that aging and its lifetime exposure to numbers may lead to better mathematical achievement and stronger basic symbolic numerical skills. Our results further support the observation that basic non-symbolic numerical skills are resilient to aging, but that aging may exacerbate poorer performance on trials requiring inhibitory processes. These findings lend further support to the notion that preserved basic numerical skills in aging may reflect the preservation of an innate, primitive, and embedded number sense.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus