Representations of space, time, and number in neonates

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Apr 1;111(13):4809-13. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1323628111. Epub 2014 Mar 17.


A rich concept of magnitude--in its numerical, spatial, and temporal forms--is a central foundation of mathematics, science, and technology, but the origins and developmental relations among the abstract concepts of number, space, and time are debated. Are the representations of these dimensions and their links tuned by extensive experience, or are they readily available from birth? Here, we show that, at the beginning of postnatal life, 0- to 3-d-old neonates reacted to a simultaneous increase (or decrease) in spatial extent and in duration or numerical quantity, but they did not react when the magnitudes varied in opposite directions. The findings provide evidence that representations of space, time, and number are systematically interrelated at the start of postnatal life, before acquisition of language and cultural metaphors, and before extensive experience with the natural correlations between these dimensions.

Keywords: cognitive; development; numerical cognition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Mathematics*
  • Space Perception*
  • Time Factors