Tuning curves for approximate numerosity in the human intraparietal sulcus

Neuron. 2004 Oct 28;44(3):547-55. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2004.10.014.


Number, like color or movement, is a basic property of the environment. Recently, single neurons tuned to number have been observed in animals. We used both psychophysics and neuroimaging to examine whether a similar neural coding scheme is present in humans. When participants viewed sets of items with a variable number, the bilateral intraparietal sulci responded selectively to number change. Functionally, the shape of this response indicates that humans, like other animal species, encode approximate number on a compressed internal scale. Anatomically, the intraparietal site coding for number in humans is compatible with that observed in macaque monkeys. Our results therefore suggest an evolutionary basis for human elementary arithmetic.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebral Cortex / blood supply
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Choice Behavior / physiology
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Parietal Lobe / blood supply
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Psychophysics
  • Semantics*
  • Size Perception / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology*


  • Oxygen