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A head for numbers

The brain shows slightly different, but overlapping patterns when processing digits and dots of the same value

1:17pm, September 24, 2009

A 2 by any other name would not be the same to the brain.

Scientists can determine the number of dots a person has seen by looking at brain activity patterns using functional MRI. But when the brain views digits instead of dots, slightly different yet distinct activity patterns emerge. The findings suggest that people process the fundamental idea of a quantity differently from the way they process a symbol representing that quantity, French scientists report online September 24 in Current Biology.

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