Sun, Dec 4, 2016 | updated 09:44 PM IST

This is your brain on math

Updated: Jul 21, 2016 12:34 IST

Washington D.C, Jul 21 (ANI): Using neuroimaging, the technology that give us "snapshots" of the brain at work, a team of researchers has revealed distinct stages of thinking.

By combining two analytical strategies- multivoxel pattern analysis (MVPA) and hidden semi-Markov models (HSMM), the Carnegie Mellon University researchers were able to use functional MRI to identify patterns of brain activity that aligned with four distinct stages of problem solving.

"How students were solving these kinds of problems was a total mystery to us until we applied these techniques," said lead researcher John Anderson, adding: "Now, when students are sitting there thinking hard, we can tell what they are thinking each second."

Insights from this work may eventually be applied to the design of more effective classroom instruction, said Anderson.

The study emerges from an ongoing line of research that uses brain imaging to understand the sequence of processes that underlie thinking. While neuroimaging research has provided a window into various aspects of cognition, how these pieces fit together into a coherent whole, as people complete real tasks in real time, is not clearly understood.

Although the study focused specifically on mathematical problem solving, the method holds promise for broader application, the researchers argue. Using the same method with brain imaging techniques that have greater temporal resolution, such as EEG, even more detailed information about the various stages of cognitive processing can be revealed.

The study is published in Psychological Science. (ANI)