The neural basis of 'number sense' in young infants

February 5, 2008

Behavioral experiments indicate that infants aged 4 ½ months or older possess an early “number sense” that allows them to detect changes in the number of objects. However, the neural basis of this ability was previously unknown.

This week in the online journal PLoS Biology, Véronique Izard, Ghislaine Dehaene-Lambertz, and Stanislas Dehaene provide brain imaging evidence showing that very young infants are sensitive to both the number and identity of objects, and these pieces of information are processed by distinct neural pathways.

The authors recorded the electrical activity evoked by the brain on the surface of the scalp as 3-months-old infants were watching images of objects. The number or identity of objects occasionally changed. The authors found that the infant brain responds to both changes, but in different brain regions, which map onto the same regions that activate in adults.

These results show that very young infants are sensitive to small changes in number, and the brain organization that underlies the perception of object number and identity are established early during development.

Citation: Izard V, Dehaene-Lambertz G, Dehaene S (2008) Distinct cerebral pathways for object identity and number in human infants. PLoS Biol 6(2): e11. doi:10.1371/journal. pbio.0060011 (

Source: Public Library of Science

Explore further: Baby brain growth mirrors changes from apes to humans

Related Stories

Recommended for you

CERN collides heavy nuclei at new record high energy

November 25, 2015

The world's most powerful accelerator, the 27 km long Large Hadron Collider (LHC) operating at CERN in Geneva established collisions between lead nuclei, this morning, at the highest energies ever. The LHC has been colliding ...

Study suggests fish can experience 'emotional fever'

November 25, 2015

(—A small team of researchers from the U.K. and Spain has found via lab study that at least one type of fish is capable of experiencing 'emotional fever,' which suggests it may qualify as a sentient being. In their ...

A new form of real gold, almost as light as air

November 25, 2015

Researchers at ETH Zurich have created a new type of foam made of real gold. It is the lightest form ever produced of the precious metal: a thousand times lighter than its conventional form and yet it is nearly impossible ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.