Research Topic

The Functional and Neural Mechanisms of Numerosity Processing: From Perception to Cognition

About this Research Topic

The ability to rapidly and approximately estimate the number of objects in a visual scene has a very important role in perception, cognition, and decision making. Approximate numerical information, or “numerosity,” has been indeed hypothesized to represent a dimension foundational to our conscious experience of the external world, and, in many situations an important information to effectively guide our behavior. For instance, in the animal world, numerosity perception is essential to spot the patch with more food or resources, or to take rapid fight-or-flight decisions according to the number of predators or preys. Numerosity has a widespread role in many human activities as well, like for instance avoiding the queue with the highest number of people waiting, or getting an idea at glance of how many coins are in your pocket. On top of these perceptual functions, the processing of approximate numerical information has been also hypothesized to play a role in the development of more complex numerical abilities, mediating the acquisition of mathematical knowledge.

In this article collection, we aim to explore how numerosity perception is implemented in the brain by focusing on four broad points: (1) to what extent numerosity perception is based on numerical and non-numerical magnitudes, how different magnitudes (i.e., size, density, but also time) interact with each other, and whether such interaction is modulated by the context in which a judgment is made. (2) The link - or the dissociation - between the mechanisms mediating numerosity perception in different ranges (i.e., “subitizing”, approximate number system, and texture-density range). (3) the neural mechanisms involved in generating a numerosity representation, and their interaction with other perceptual systems. And (4) whether and to what extent the ability to process approximate numerical information influence the development of mathematical abilities.

This article collection thus aims to bring together different approaches and points of view in an inter-disciplinary fashion. Doing so, our goal is to gather new evidence concerning how the brain generates our “sense of number.” In line with this, we welcome studies using a broad range of techniques and tools, spanning from human psychophysics and neuroimaging, to brain stimulation and developmental studies. By bringing together works using such different approaches, we aim to bridge the gaps in our knowledge of numerosity perception and numerical cognition, and reach a more comprehensive understanding of the brain processes involved.


Keywords: Numerosity perception, numerical cognition, sense of number, approximate number system, neural mechanisms


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

The ability to rapidly and approximately estimate the number of objects in a visual scene has a very important role in perception, cognition, and decision making. Approximate numerical information, or “numerosity,” has been indeed hypothesized to represent a dimension foundational to our conscious experience of the external world, and, in many situations an important information to effectively guide our behavior. For instance, in the animal world, numerosity perception is essential to spot the patch with more food or resources, or to take rapid fight-or-flight decisions according to the number of predators or preys. Numerosity has a widespread role in many human activities as well, like for instance avoiding the queue with the highest number of people waiting, or getting an idea at glance of how many coins are in your pocket. On top of these perceptual functions, the processing of approximate numerical information has been also hypothesized to play a role in the development of more complex numerical abilities, mediating the acquisition of mathematical knowledge.

In this article collection, we aim to explore how numerosity perception is implemented in the brain by focusing on four broad points: (1) to what extent numerosity perception is based on numerical and non-numerical magnitudes, how different magnitudes (i.e., size, density, but also time) interact with each other, and whether such interaction is modulated by the context in which a judgment is made. (2) The link - or the dissociation - between the mechanisms mediating numerosity perception in different ranges (i.e., “subitizing”, approximate number system, and texture-density range). (3) the neural mechanisms involved in generating a numerosity representation, and their interaction with other perceptual systems. And (4) whether and to what extent the ability to process approximate numerical information influence the development of mathematical abilities.

This article collection thus aims to bring together different approaches and points of view in an inter-disciplinary fashion. Doing so, our goal is to gather new evidence concerning how the brain generates our “sense of number.” In line with this, we welcome studies using a broad range of techniques and tools, spanning from human psychophysics and neuroimaging, to brain stimulation and developmental studies. By bringing together works using such different approaches, we aim to bridge the gaps in our knowledge of numerosity perception and numerical cognition, and reach a more comprehensive understanding of the brain processes involved.


Keywords: Numerosity perception, numerical cognition, sense of number, approximate number system, neural mechanisms


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

31 July 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

31 July 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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