Difficulties in learning for children caused by insufficient connectivity

According to a study published in Current Biology, learning difficulties in children’s brains cannot be related to specific regions of the brain itself but to the poor connectivity between the “hubs” that are present within the brain.
In this opinion a team of researchers from the University of Cambridge wanted to analyze the difficulties that many children, between 14 and 30% according to the article on the website of the same English university, face in terms of learning.

These difficulties can then often be linked to problems of a cognitive or behavioural nature. It is common opinion among neurobiologists that these difficulties can be linked to specific areas of the brain. For example, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been linked to the anterior cingulate cortex and other areas such as the cerebellum, caudate nucleus, prefrontal cortex, etc.
Such a high number of regions related to this disorder has been explained by the fact that each diagnosis differs between one individual the next and each individual shows combinations of brain regions related to the disorder.

The Cambridge Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit team of researchers explains this differently: there would be no specific brain areas that cause these difficulties, rather the children’s brains are organized around “hubs”, like a kind of social network.
Those children who have well-connected hubs seem to have either very specific cognitive difficulties or no cognitive difficulties at all. On the other hand, children with not very well connected hubs show more widespread and severe cognitive problems.

The researchers conducted experiments on 479 children, 337 of whom had shown learning related cognitive problems. The researchers used machine learning and performed brain scans using MRI scans.

“Scientists have argued for decades that there are specific regions of the brain that have a particular learning disorder or difficulty, but we have shown that this is not the case,” says Duncan Astle, the senior author of the study. “In fact, it’s much more important to consider how these areas of the brain are connected, particularly if they are connected via hubs. The severity of learning difficulties has been strongly associated with the connection of these hubs, we believe that these hubs play a key role in sharing information between brain areas”.