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Jessica Cantlon seeks the origins of numerical thinking

Brain scans and behavioral tests add up to explain an intriguing evolutionary question

11:07am, September 21, 2016
Jessica Cantlon

Cognitive neuroscientist Jessica Cantlon wants to find out how humans understand numbers and where that understanding comes from.

Jessica Cantlon, 40
Cognitive neuroscientist
University of Rochester

The first time Jessica Cantlon met Kumang at the Seneca Park Zoo, the matriarch orangutan regurgitated her previous meal right into Cantlon’s face. “I was retching,” Cantlon recalls. “It was so gross.” But Cantlon was there to kick off a series of behavioral experiments, and her students, who would be working with Kumang regularly, were watching. “Does anyone have any towels?” she remembers asking, knowing she had to keep her cool.

Cantlon’s deliberate nature and whatever-it-takes attitude have served her well. As a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Rochester in New York, she investigates

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