Numbers in the brain

NeuWrite San Diego

If you look around, number quantities are inescapable: our culture is based on precisely measuring time, distance, and quantities. However, even creatures that aren’t exposed to sophisticated human number systems are inevitably exposed to quantities of things. Animals in the wild come into contact with varying quantities of other animals and of their food, and differentiating between one predator and ten, for example, matters for their survival. Thus we might ask what is going on in our brains when we use this crucial number sense – also referred to as numerosity.

Humans have undoubtedly complex mathematical capabilities, many of which are possible because they’re grounded in symbolic systems. But humans also exhibit some lower-level numerical abilities that we share with other animals. It is well established that humans, animals, and pre-linguistic infants can all compare and approximate numerical quantities[1]. Addition also seems to be a skill not only apparent…

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