Pierina Cheung

Post-Doctoral Fellow

Curriculum Vitae


If I show you a fish, another fish, and another fish, you may say there are three fish, but the notion of ‘threeness’ is not a property of individual objects. It is a property attributable to collections: None of the individual fish is three but the collection of fish has a numerosity that is three. Unlike individual objects (e.g., car, dog), properties of collections have no material existence – no texture, colour, or shape. How do we represent collections of things? Natural numbers such as three or three hundred provide one way for us to represent properties of collections. The focus of my current work is on the acquisition of knowledge of the natural numbers (one, two, three, etc). What are the origins of human knowledge of the natural numbers? And what is the cognitive architecture that supports their acquisition? In the lab, I’m trying to answer these questions by investigating children’s knowledge of the meaning of large numbers, including their ability to process multi-digit numbers such as 18 and complex spoken numerals such as “three hundred”. Together with Rebecca, I’m also studying the exact number notion in preschoolers. My goal is to develop a learning account that explains how children construct knowledge of the natural numbers and identifies factors that facilitate their acquisition. 

Prior to coming to Western, I was a postdoc at Wesleyan University in the US, studying early number development with Anna Shusterman. I received my PhD in Developmental Psychology the University of Waterloo in 2015. In my dissertation, I investigated the nature of non-verbal representations of numerical relations in preschoolers under the supervision of Mathieu Le Corre. I received my BSc in Psychology (minor in Environment) at the University of Toronto in 2007, working with David Barner, who got me interested in the notion of individuation in human cognition. I was working towards a BEd in Language Education before moving to Canada in 2004, a decision that has changed my life ever since.








Zachary Hawes

Graduate Student

Curriculum Vitae


I am a first year PhD student in the Numerical Cognition Lab. I am both a qualified teacher as well as an experienced researcher in the area of mathematics learning and education. In my previous position as a researcher at the University of Toronto, I worked closely with Drs. Joan Moss, Bev Caswell, and Cathy Bruce designing, implementing, and evaluating early years mathematics curricula. Much of this work has influenced educational policy and initiatives of the Ontario Ministry of Education.

As a member of the Numerical Cognition Lab, I am interested in understanding the basic cognitive and neural underpinnings of mathematical thinking. More specifically, my research program will aim to better understand the mechanisms linking numerical and spatial cognition. Why is that people who demonstrate strong spatial skills, such as the ability to imagine the movement of objects in space, generally perform better in mathematics? What role does spatial thinking play, if any, in the representation of numerical magnitudes? Moreover, how might we use knowledge on numerical and spatial cognition to inform the design of effective educational interventions? To best address these and other related questions, I will look to combine knowledge and methodologies from psychology, neuroscience, and education.

Like other members of the lab, I am committed to the growing discipline of Mind, Brain, and Education. I am interested in questions that deal with how to use and apply findings from neuroscience and psychology to inform educational practice, but also how to utilize the knowledge of educators to inform science. Insofar as the goal is to build the most optimal learning environments for children, I see collaboration and knowledge exchange between teachers, psychologists, and neuroscientists as critical. 

Rebecca Merkley 

Post-Doctoral Fellow

Curriculum Vitae


My research focuses on identifying early predictors and potential risk factors for mathematics learning in young children.

I started out in the Numerical Cognition Lab as a volunteer research assistant in 2008 and am thrilled to be working here again. I completed my doctorate and continue to collaborate with Prof Gaia Scerif at the University of Oxford investigating relationships between attention and numeracy in early childhood. I am particularly interested in preschoolers for both theoretical and applied reasons. First, it is during this period in development that humans acquire symbolic representations of number, and this acquisition process is not yet well understood. Second, surprisingly little is known or regulated about mathematics learning in early years in the UK or Canada, therefore this is an area with great potential for impact on policy. Additionally, preschoolers are a fun age group to work with!

I hope to contribute to the emerging field of educational neuroscience through my current and future research with the eventual aim of better understanding learning and teaching.

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Moriah Sokolowski

Graduate Student

Curriculum Vitae


I am a second year PhD student in the Numerical Cognition Lab.  I completed my B.Sc in Psychology also at UWO. During my B.Sc. in Psychology, I was privileged to gain research experience on training early numeracy skills in preschool children under the supervision of Daniel Ansari.


​One of my major research interests is the similarities and differences in the way that humans process symbolic and nonsymbolic numbers and how this changes across development. During my Masters degree, I used a neuroimaging meta-analytic tool (Activation Likelihood Estimation) to examine how different kinds of non-numerical magnitudes such as physical size interact with both symbolic and nonsymbolic number representations in adults. During my PhD, I am using additional behavioural and neuroimaging methodologies to further examine how symbolic and nonsymbolic numbers are represented in the human brain.  Specifically, I am exploring how symbolic and nonsymbolic number representations overlap with non-numerical magnitudes and how all of these representations change across development. I am also interested in the role that math anxiety plays in processing basic numerical stimuli. 




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Daniel Ansari

Principal Investigator

Curriculum Vitae


I have the great privilege to work with all the brilliant people in this laboratory on questions such as: "How are number represented in our brains?", "How does the brain change with learning and development?" and "How can we use what we are learning about the basic mechanisms underlying our numerical abilities to inform education?". I have been working on these problems together with amazing students (at both the undergraduate and graduate levels) as well as post-docs for the past decade. We adopt a 'Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience' approach in our research program. By doing so, our lab seeks to understand more about how children learn about numbers using both behavioural and brain-imaging methods. We are committed to making contributions to basic knowledge as well as finding ways to translate what we learn in the laboratory into the classroom. In this way, we are committed to the emerging fields of 'Mind, Brain and Education' and 'Educational Neuroscience'.


Bea Goffin

Laboratory Manager


I have been extremely fortunate to have spent the last 10 years working behind the scenes with an amazing research team that keeps me young(er) and on-my-toes! I have been involved in the development of study procedures, particularly the preparation of child participants for neuroimaging experiments, preparation of research ethics applications, data management, teaching of standardized testing procedures, administration of laboratory finances and proofreading of manuscripts and grant applications. On occasion, I have been known to step in when needed for recruitment and testing of participants.  Every day brings something different and one of the highlights of my time spent in the lab is watching the students develop into strong, accomplished researchers.

Copyright ©  Numerical Cognition Laboratory

Members

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Tsz Tan Lau
Graduate Student

I am a PhD Student in Developmental Psychology at the University of Western Ontario since September 2017.  I completed my Masters at the University of Hong Kong and my Undergraduate at McMaster University.  


My main area of interest is how children acquire mathematical competencies from home and school environments. I am especially interested in exploring how our non-symbolic magnitude processing abilities and symbolic magnitude processing abilities develop in tandem, and how these two systems may be helpful in predicting future academic achievement.  I am also interested in examining how children acquire higher-order mathematical skills, for example, the strategy choice in solving systems of equations.




Adrián Miguel Sardiñas Grillo 

Graduate Student

I am an MSc student in the Numerical Cognition Lab since September, 2017.  I completed my Undergraduate degree at the University of Havana.


Previous studies have shown correlational evidence between the Approximate Number System (ANS) and mathematics performance. One of my main areas of interest is to understand the mechanisms underlying this relationship.  I am also interested in examining the content of an effective intervention or instruction that would improve children's mathematics performance.  My ultimate research goal is to understand how to improve mathematics performance in young children.



Lien Peters 

Post-Doctoral Fellow

Curriculum Vitae


I am a postdoctoral associate in the Numerical Cognition Lab since September 2017. I completed my Masters and Doctorate in Psychology at the University of Leuven, under supervision of Bert De Smedt and Hans Op de Beeck.

My primary interest is understanding how children develop arithmetic skills and what neurocognitive and environmental mechanisms underlie arithmetic development. I am also interested in what underlies the overlap between arithmetic and reading and the comorbidity between learning disorders such as dyscalculia and dyslexia. I use both behavioral and brain imaging methods, and am also very interested in the use of multivariate methods to analyze neural data.

Celia Goffin

Graduate Student

Curriculum Vitae


I am a PhD student in Developmental Psychology at The University of Western Ontario. I completed my bachelor’s degree in psychology, also at Western University, where in my fourth year I became interested in the development of numerical skills while working in the Numerical Cognition Laboratory. In my Master's degree, I investigated the relationship between cardinal and ordinal processing of number symbols and how this relates to individual differences in more complex mathematics.


​​Currently, I am interested in how numerical symbols (i.e., Arabic digits) are represented in the human brain, both across development and in adults. My research uses various methods, including brain imaging and behavioural techniques to examine how the brain represents number. More specifically, I am looking at how the mechanisms underlying number representation may be different from the representation of other symbols, such as letters. I am also investigating how neural number representation may change across different ages, and how the neural representation of number is related to important number skills, such as arithmetic and magnitude comparison.