Navigation Links
Pre-verbal number sense common to monkeys, babies, college kids
Date:2/13/2009

CHICAGO -- Basic arithmetic and "number sense" appear to be part of the shared evolutionary past of many primates; it's the use of language to explain abstractions that apparently takes human math to a higher level.

Elizabeth Brannon, an assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, studies how human adults and infants, lemurs, and monkeys think about numbers without using language. She's looking for the brain systems that support number sense and trying to figure out how this cognitive skill develops.

"Number is one of the more abstract domains of cognition: three coins and three loaves of bread are very different concepts," says Brannon, who appears on a Friday afternoon panel at the AAAS annual meeting called "Comparative Cognition: The Science of Mental Evolution. "Yet, many studies show that babies, even in the first year of life, can tell the difference between quantities."

She runs about 500 babies per year through her testing lab at Duke, as well as macaques, lemurs and the odd undergraduate. Most of the experiments involve computer touch-screens and sets of brightly colored dots.

After seeing the same number of objects repeated in different-looking sets, infants recognize the novelty of a new number of objects. So do macaques. And both college kids and macaques can do a rough sort of math by summing sets of objects without actually counting them. Their speed and accuracy are about the same, in fact.

That the evolved brain has some fundamental sense of number without language should come as little surprise, Brannon says.

"There are all sorts of reasons why number would be useful for nonhuman animals in the wild. In foraging situations animals need to make decisions about how long to stay in a given patch of food and when to move on," Brannon says. "Territorial animals may need to assess the number of individuals in their own group relative to competing groups to decide whether to stand their ground or retreat."

Understanding the biological basis of our number sense might also help early childhood educators.

Brannon's latest work is aimed at understanding how the human brain changes to accommodate symbolism as a child learns the names of numbers and begins to grasp more abstract manipulations. "If the nonverbal number sense is really providing a critical foundation for math achievement, then this will suggest teaching methods that provide more grounding in the nonverbal quantity system."

Brannon is also exploring the macaque's sense of an empty set, what we'd call zero with our linguistically intensive sense of number. The monkeys are more likely to confuse an empty set with a 1 or a 2 than they are to confuse it with an 8 or a 9, she says, which shows they're putting zero in the proper place on the number line.

"We're trying to understand how the animal mind works. How much of human thought is dependent on language?"


'/>"/>

Contact: Karl Leif Bates
karl.bates@duke.edu
919-681-8054
Duke University
Source:Eurekalert

Related medicine news :

1. Battle Continues Over Vietnam PTSD Numbers
2. Record Number of Americans Lack Health Insurance
3. Growing Number of U.S. Kids Not Getting Needed Vaccinations
4. AUDIO from Medialink and Pfizer: Number of Uninsured Americans Grows to 47 Million
5. Number of Partners Doesnt Explain Gay HIV Rate
6. StemCyte, Inc. Ranked Number Six in Deloittes Technology Fast 50 Program for Los Angeles
7. Abortion Numbers Fall Worldwide
8. BioDiscovery Releases NEXUS CGH Version 2 for DNA Copy Number Analysis and Visualization
9. Health Market Science Ranked Number Ten in Deloittes Technology Fast 50 Program for Greater Philadelphia
10. Huge numbers willing to go under knife to alter their appearance, study finds
11. HearAtLast Continues Rapid Expansion, Opening Two New Retail Locations in Richmond Hill and Markham Wal-Mart Stores Number 3195 and 3053
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... June 25, 2016 , ... Austin residents seeking Mohs surgery services, ... Mohs Surgery and to Dr. Russell Peckham for medical and surgical dermatology. , Dr. ... skin cancer. The selective fellowship in Mohs Micrographic Surgery completed by Dr. Dorsey was ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... June 25, 2016 , ... Dr. ... from injury. Recently, he has implemented orthobiologic procedures as a method for treating ... one of the first doctors to perform the treatment. Orthobiologics are substances that ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... Michigan (PRWEB) , ... June 24, 2016 , ... June ... about the dangers associated with chronic pain and the benefits of holistic treatments, ... individuals who are suffering with Sickle Cell Disease. , Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) is ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... 24, 2016 , ... Comfort Keepers® of San Diego, CA is excited to ... Recovery® program to drive cancer patients to and from their cancer treatments. Comfort ... quality of life and ongoing independence. Getting to and from medical treatments is ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... Las Vegas, Nevada (PRWEB) , ... June 24, ... ... their Las Vegas client, The Grove Investment Group (TGIG), has initiated cultivation and ... The Grove, in Las Vegas and Pahrump, Nevada. , Puradigm is the manufacturer ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:6/24/2016)... , June 24, 2016 ... appointment of Dr. Edward Futcher to ... Director, effective June 23, 2016.Dr. Futcher was also ... and Governance Committees.  As a non-executive member of ... expertise and strategic counsel to VolitionRx in connection ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... June 23, 2016 Any dentist who has made ... the current process. Many of them do not even offer ... difficulties and high laboratory costs involved. And those who ARE ... at such a high cost that the majority of today,s ... Dr. Parsa Zadeh , founder of Dental Evolutions Inc. ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 23, 2016 Research and Markets has ... Market Analysis 2016 - Forecast to 2022" report to ... report contains up to date financial data derived from varied ... major trends with potential impact on the market during the ... segmentation which comprises of sub markets, regional and country level ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: