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Assessing the ecological validity of numerosity-selective neuronal populations with real-world natural scenes

Research group Dumoulin
Publication year 2022
Published in iScience
Authors Shir Hofstetter, Serge O. Dumoulin

Animals and humans are able to quickly and effortlessly estimate the number of items in a set: their numerosity. Numerosity perception is thought to be critical to behavior, from feeding to escaping predators to human mathematical cognition. Virtually, all scientific studies on numerosity mechanisms use well controlled but artificial stimuli to isolate the numerosity dimension from other physical quantities. Here, we probed the ecological validity of these artificial stimuli and evaluate whether an important component in numerosity processing, the numerosity-selective neural populations, also respond to numerosity of items in real-world natural scenes. Using 7T MRI and natural images from a wide range of categories, we provide evidence that the numerosity-tuned neuronal populations show numerosity-selective responses when viewing images from a real-world natural scene. Our findings strengthen the role of numerosity-selective neurons in numerosity perception and provide an important link to their function in numerosity perception in real-world settings.

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