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Non-symbolic numerosity maps at the occipitotemporal cortex respond to symbolic numbers

Onderzoeksgroep Dumoulin
Publicatiejaar 2023
Gepubliceerd in The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience
Auteur(s) Yuxuan Cai, Shir Hofstetter, Serge O Dumoulin

Numerosity, the set size of a group of items, helps guide human and animals' behavior and decisions. Numerosity perception is thought to be a precursor of symbolic numerical cognition. Previously, we uncovered neural populations selectively tuned to numerosities organized in a network of topographic maps in human association cortex. Here we investigate whether these numerosity maps are also involved in the processing of symbolic numbers, using 7T fMRI and a number-detection task. We recruited seven participants (three females) and found that the numerosity map at the temporal-occipital cortex (NTO) also respond to symbolic numbers. Furthermore, we found that numerosity-tuned neuronal populations at the NTO map in the left hemisphere are tuned to symbolic numbers. These results reveal different functions of the numerosity maps and support a link between numerosity representation and symbolic number processing in the ventral temporal-occipital cortex.Significance Statement:Humans and other animals share an intuitive 'number sense' to approximately represent numerosity. However, humans possess a unique ability to process number symbols (e.g., Arabic numbers). It has been argued that the human understanding of symbolic numbers is rooted in our ability to numerosity perception. Here we investigate whether numerosity-tuned neuronal populations organized at a network of topographic maps also respond to symbolic numbers. We find one of the maps at the temporal-occipital cortex is involved in symbolic numerical cognition and the neuronal populations are tuned to numbers. These results provide evidence for a link between non-symbolic numerosity and symbolic number processing.

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