Neurocognitive predictors of mathematical processing in school-aged children with spina bifida and their typically developing peers: Attention, working memory, and fine motor skills
Raghubar, Kimberly P.
Barnes, Marcia A.
Cirino, Paul T.
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Objective: Math and attention are related in neurobiological and behavioral models of mathematical cognition. This study employed model-driven assessments of attention and math in children with spina bifida myelomeningocele (SBM), who have known math difficulties and specific attentional deficits, to more directly examine putative relations between attention and mathematical processing. The relation of other domain general abilities and math was also investigated. Method: Participants were 9.5-year-old children with SBM (n = 44) and typically developing children (n = 50). Participants were administered experimental exact and approximate arithmetic tasks, and standardized measures of math fluency and calculation. Cognitive measures included the Attention Network Test (ANT), and standardized measures of fine motor skills, verbal working memory (WM), and visual-spatial WM. Results: Children with SBM performed similarly to peers on exact arithmetic, but more poorly on approximate and standardized arithmetic measures. On the ANT, children with SBM differed from controls on orienting attention, but not on alerting and executive attention. Multiple mediation models showed that fine motor skills and verbal WM mediated the relation of group to approximate arithmetic; fine motor skills and visual-spatial WM mediated the relation of group to math fluency; and verbal and visual-spatial WM mediated the relation of group to math calculation. Attention was not a significant mediator of the effects of group for any aspect of math in this study. Conclusion: Results are discussed with reference to models of attention, WM, and mathematical cognition.