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 (www.plosbiology.org)

Source: Public Library of Science

Explore further: Baby food for thought

Related Stories

Baby food for thought

August 12, 2016

If you want your baby to love broccoli, you better love it, too, because that tiny human is watching you to learn which foods are good and bad. That's one of the takeaways in a new paper by a UC Santa Barbara researcher who ...

Infants solve invariance problem in new speech study

January 12, 2015

Just about all parents would agree—infants undergo a nearly magical transformation from 3 to 6 months. Seemingly overnight, they can smile and laugh, and they squeal with delight when tickled. They babble, have "conversations" ...

Recommended for you

Quest to find the 'missing physics' at play in landslides

August 30, 2016

During the 1990s, Charles S. Campbell, now a professor in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at the University of Southern California, began exploring why large landslides flow great distances with apparently ...

0 comments

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.