Zlotowski Center for Neuroscience

Beersheba, Israel

Zlotowski Center for Neuroscience

Beersheba, Israel

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News Article | November 1, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

BEER-SHEVA, ISRAEL...November 1, 2016 - A new theory regarding how the brain first learns basic math could alter approaches to identifying and teaching students with math learning disabilities. Published in the Behavioral and Brain Sciences journal, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) researchers offer a better understanding of how, when and why people grasp every day math skills. The most widely accepted theory today suggests people are born with a "sense of numbers," an innate ability to recognize different quantities, like the number of items in a shopping cart, and that this ability improves with age. Early math curricula and tools for diagnosing math-specific learning disabilities such as dyscalculia, a brain disorder that makes it hard to make sense of numbers and math concepts, have been based on that consensus. Ph.D. students Naama Katzin and Maayan Harel and Prof. Avishai Henik, all from the BGU Department of Psychology and the Zlotowski Center for Neuroscience, collaborated with Dr. Tali Leibovich from the Numerical Cognition Laboratory at the Department of Psychology & Brain and Mind Institute, University of Western Ontario. Dr. Leibovich was formerly a Ph.D. researcher at BGU's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and the Zlotowski Center. "If we are able to understand how the brain learns math, and how it understands numbers and more complex math concepts that shape the world we live in, we will be able to teach math in a more intuitive and enjoyable way," says Dr. Leibovich. "This study is the first step in achieving this goal." The study challenges the prevalent "sense of numbers" theory. Other theories suggest that a "sense of magnitude" that enables people to discriminate between different "continuous magnitudes," such as the density of two groups of apples or total surface area of two pizza trays, is even more basic and automatic than a sense of numbers. The researchers argue that understanding the relationship between size and number is critical for the development of higher math abilities. By combining number and size (e.g., area, density and perimeter), we can make faster and more efficient decisions. Take for example the dilemma over choosing the quickest checkout line at the grocery store. While most people intuitively get behind someone with a less filled-looking cart, a fuller-looking cart with fewer, larger items may actually be quicker. The way we make these kinds of decisions reveals that people use the natural correlation between number and continuous magnitudes to compare magnitudes. The researchers also urge colleagues to consider the roles other factors, such as language and cognitive control, play in acquiring numerical concepts. While the theoretical models presented in this review may raise more questions than answers, the researchers hope their hypothesis will reveal new ways of identifying dyscalculia, which can currently only be diagnosed in school-aged children. By this stage, children with the disorder are already lagging behind their peers. "This new approach will allow us to develop diagnostic tools that do not require any formal math knowledge, thus allowing diagnosis and treatment of dyscalculia before school age," says Dr. Leibovich. The study, "From 'sense of number' to 'sense of magnitude' - The role of continuous magnitudes in numerical cognition," was supported by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ERC Grant Agreement 295644 to AH. http://dx. American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU) plays a vital role in sustaining David Ben-Gurion's vision: creating a world-class institution of education and research in the Israeli desert, nurturing the Negev community and sharing the University's expertise locally and around the globe. As Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) looks ahead to turning 50 in 2020, AABGU imagines a future that goes beyond the walls of academia. It is a future where BGU invents a new world and inspires a vision for a stronger Israel and its next generation of leaders. Together with supporters, AABGU will help the University foster excellence in teaching, research and outreach to the communities of the Negev for the next 50 years and beyond. Visit vision.aabgu.org to learn more. AABGU, headquartered in Manhattan, has nine regional offices throughout the United States. For more information, https:/ .


Haramati O.,Zlotowski Center for Neuroscience | Mane R.,Zlotowski Center for Neuroscience | Molczadzki G.,Zlotowski Center for Neuroscience | Perez-Polo J.R.,University of Texas Medical Branch | And 2 more authors.
International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience | Year: 2010

Prenatal perturbation of brain circulation and oxygenation is a leading cause of perinatal brain damage affecting about 0.3-0.9% of births. Hypoxia-ischemia (HI) in preterm human infants at gestational week 23-32 results in neurodevelopmental abnormalities in childhood, presenting as learning disability, seizure activity, motor impairment and in the most severe cases, death. Here, we examined the potential of MgSO4 treatment, prior to foetal hypoxia, to attenuate hypoxia induced damage in a murine model of maternal hypoxia. We studied the time course of maternal hypoxia and MgSO4 pre-treatment effects on cerebellar tissue by means of DNA microarray analyses. Mild hypoxia induced minor expression changes in most genes. However, there were 5 gene sets which were down-regulated by maternal hypoxia. MgSO4 pre-treatment abrogated these decreases in gene. A cell cycle gene set which responded immediately (2 h) to hypoxia, showed a delayed response (24 h) when MgSO4 pre-treatment was given. Similar proportions of cell death were observed in all groups before P7, where combined hypoxia and MgSO4 treatment increased cell death in the internal granule layer. There were a higher number of BrdU positive cells at the end of hypoxic episodes and a down-regulation of Reelin signaling, compared to control. MgSO4 pre-treatment prevented the enhancement of cell proliferation due to hypoxia and increased Reelin levels. Altogether, MgSO4 pre-treatment both reduced the number of genes differentially affected by hypoxia and delayed the responses to hypoxia. In addition, MgSO4 pre-treatment modified the nature of the transcriptional response; while hypoxia induced down-regulation of gene sets, MgSO4 pre-treatment mostly up-regulated them. The dual reaction to the MgSO4 treatment may be the source of the ambiguity in observations reported for affected newborns. © 2009 ISDN.


News Article | November 1, 2016
Site: www.sciencedaily.com

A new theory regarding how the brain first learns basic math could alter approaches to identifying and teaching students with math learning disabilities. Published in the Behavioral and Brain Sciences journal, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) researchers offer a better understanding of how, when and why people grasp every day math skills. The most widely accepted theory today suggests people are born with a "sense of numbers," an innate ability to recognize different quantities, like the number of items in a shopping cart, and that this ability improves with age. Early math curricula and tools for diagnosing math-specific learning disabilities such as dyscalculia, a brain disorder that makes it hard to make sense of numbers and math concepts, have been based on that consensus. Ph.D. students Naama Katzin and Maayan Harel and Prof. Avishai Henik, all from the BGU Department of Psychology and the Zlotowski Center for Neuroscience, collaborated with Dr. Tali Leibovich from the Numerical Cognition Laboratory at the Department of Psychology & Brain and Mind Institute, University of Western Ontario. Dr. Leibovich was formerly a Ph.D. researcher at BGU's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and the Zlotowski Center. "If we are able to understand how the brain learns math, and how it understands numbers and more complex math concepts that shape the world we live in, we will be able to teach math in a more intuitive and enjoyable way," says Dr. Leibovich. "This study is the first step in achieving this goal." The study challenges the prevalent "sense of numbers" theory. Other theories suggest that a "sense of magnitude" that enables people to discriminate between different "continuous magnitudes," such as the density of two groups of apples or total surface area of two pizza trays, is even more basic and automatic than a sense of numbers. The researchers argue that understanding the relationship between size and number is critical for the development of higher math abilities. By combining number and size (e.g., area, density and perimeter), we can make faster and more efficient decisions. Take for example the dilemma over choosing the quickest checkout line at the grocery store. While most people intuitively get behind someone with a less filled-looking cart, a fuller-looking cart with fewer, larger items may actually be quicker. The way we make these kinds of decisions reveals that people use the natural correlation between number and continuous magnitudes to compare magnitudes. The researchers also urge colleagues to consider the roles other factors, such as language and cognitive control, play in acquiring numerical concepts. While the theoretical models presented in this review may raise more questions than answers, the researchers hope their hypothesis will reveal new ways of identifying dyscalculia, which can currently only be diagnosed in school-aged children. By this stage, children with the disorder are already lagging behind their peers. "This new approach will allow us to develop diagnostic tools that do not require any formal math knowledge, thus allowing diagnosis and treatment of dyscalculia before school age," says Dr. Leibovich.


Mawase F.,Ben - Gurion University of the Negev | Mawase F.,Zlotowski Center for Neuroscience | Bar-Haim S.,Zlotowski Center for Neuroscience | Bar-Haim S.,Ben - Gurion University of the Negev | And 8 more authors.
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience | Year: 2016

Cerebral Palsy (CP) results from an insult to the developing brain and is associated with deficits in locomotor and manual skills and in sensorimotor adaptation. We hypothesized that the poor sensorimotor adaptation in persons with CP is related to their high execution variability and does not reflect a general impairment in adaptation learning. We studied the interaction between performance variability and adaptation deficits using a multi-session locomotor adaptation design in persons with CP. Six adolescents with diplegic CP were exposed, during a period of 15 weeks, to a repeated split-belt treadmill perturbation spread over 30 sessions and were tested again 6 months after the end of training. Compared to age-matched healthy controls, subjects with CP showed poor adaptation and high execution variability in the first exposure to the perturbation. Following training they showed marked reduction in execution variability and an increase in learning rates. The reduction in variability and the improvement in adaptation were highly correlated in the CP group and were retained 6 months after training. Interestingly, despite reducing their variability in the washout phase, subjects with CP did not improve learning rates during washout phases that were introduced only four times during the experiment. Our results suggest that locomotor adaptation in subjects with CP is related to their execution variability. Nevertheless, while variability reduction is generalized to other locomotor contexts, the development of savings requires both reduction in execution variability and multiple exposures to the perturbation. © 2016 Mawase, Bar-Haim, Joubran, Rubin, Karniel and Shmuelof.


Gavra T.,Zlotowski Center for Neuroscience | Gavra T.,Ben - Gurion University of the Negev | Libersat F.,Ben - Gurion University of the Negev
Journal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology | Year: 2011

The parasitoid wasp Ampulex compressa stings and injects venom into the cockroach brain to induce a long-lasting hypokinetic state. This state is characterized by decreased responsiveness to aversive stimuli, suggesting the manipulation of a neuromodulatory system in the cockroach's central nervous system. A likely candidate is the opioid system, which is known to affect responsiveness to stimuli in insects. To explore this possibility, we injected cockroaches with different opioid receptor agonists or antagonists before they were stung by a wasp and tested the escape behavior of these cockroaches to electric foot shocks. Antagonists significantly decreased the startle threshold in stung individuals, whereas agonists led to an increased startle threshold in controls. Yet, neither agonists nor antagonists had any effect on grooming. To further characterize the interaction between the venom and opioid receptors, we used an antenna-heart preparation. In un-stung individuals external application of crude venom completely inhibits antenna-heart contractions. In stung individuals the antenna-heart showed no contractions. Although acetylcholine restored contractions, the opioid receptor antagonist naloxone was unable to antagonize the venom inhibition. These results suggest that the venom of A. compressa might contribute to the manipulation of cockroach behavior by affecting the opioid system. © 2010 Springer-Verlag.

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