Recognizing numerosity is too important to leave it to one single brain area

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Case in Cognitive neuroscience

There are different areas in the brain for different cognitive functions. But recognizing quantities – numerosity – is a different matter altogether. In a paper in Nature Human Behaviour, neuroscientists from the University of Utrecht conclude that there does not appear to be a dedicated area in the brain that deals with recognizing numerosity. “The brain does not have a dedicated area for recognizing and organizing numerosity. This is a task that is performed by several brain areas,” says neuroscientist Ben Harvey of the University of Utrecht.

Earlier, researchers from Utrecht University were the first to clarify the way in which the brain recognizes and organizes quantities. The current paper describes the follow-up of this research. According to co-author Serge Dumoulin it is very possible that recognizing numerosity is too indispensable for other cognitive functions to leave it to one single brain area. This might explain why many brain areas perform this task.

“Yes, recognizing numerosity often supports other cognitive functions. Think for instance about the brain area that is responsible for language. If you are to understand the sentence ‘See you in five minutes’, not only does the language part of your brain have to get to work, but the part that deals with quantities also has its work cut out, or ‘in five minutes’ will be incomprehensible.

The publication A network of topographic numerosity maps in human association cortex by the researchers from Utrecht University is available on the website of Nature Human Behaviour.