Elisa Castaldi, Manuela Piazza, Teresa Iuculano

Learning disabilities: Developmental dyscalculia

Handbook of Clinical Neurology Volume 174, 2020, Chapter 5- Pages 61-75


Developmental dyscalculia (DD) is a developmental learning disability that manifests as a persistent difficulty in comprehending even the most basic numeric and arithmetic concepts, despite normal intelligence and schooling opportunities. Given the predominant use of numbers in modern society, this condition can pose major challenges in the sufferer's everyday life, both in personal and professional development. Since, to date, we still lack a universally recognized and psychometrically driven definition of DD, its diagnosis has been applied to a wide variety of cognitive profiles. In this chapter, we review the behavioral and neural characterization of DD as well as the different neurocognitive and etiologic accounts of this neurodevelopmental disorder. We underline the multicomponential nature of this heterogeneous disability: different aspects of mathematical competence can be affected by both the suboptimal recruitment of general cognitive functions supporting mathematical cognition (such as attention, memory, and cognitive control) and specific deficits in mastering numeric concepts and operations. Accordingly, both intervention paradigms focused on core numeric abilities and more comprehensive protocols targeting multiple neurocognitive systems have provided evidence for effective positive outcomes.