Exact and approximate judgements of visual and auditory numerosity: an fMRI study

Brain Res. 2006 Aug 23;1106(1):177-188. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2006.05.104. Epub 2006 Jul 7.


Human adults can assess the number of objects in a set (numerosity) by approximate estimation or by exact counting. There is evidence suggesting that numerosity estimation depends on a dedicated mechanism that is a-modal and non-verbal. By contrast, counting requires the coordination between the pre-existing numerosity estimation abilities with language and one-to-one correspondence principles. In this paper we investigate with fMRI the neural correlates of numerosity estimation and counting in human adults, using both visual and auditory stimuli. Results show that attending to approximate numerosity correlates with increased activity of a right lateralized fronto-parietal cortical network, and that this activity is independent of the stimuli presentation's modality. Counting activates additional left prefrontal, parietal, and bilateral premotor areas, again independently from stimulus modality. These results dissociate two neuronal systems that underlie different numerosity judgements.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / anatomy & histology
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Judgment / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Mathematics*
  • Nerve Net / anatomy & histology
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Parietal Lobe / anatomy & histology
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Visual Perception / physiology*