Gheorghiu E & Dering B (2020) Shape facilitates number: brain potentials and microstates reveal the interplay between shape and numerosity in human vision. Scientific Reports, 10, Art. No.: 12413. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-68788-4
Recognition of simple shapes and numerosity estimation for small quantities are often studied independently of each other, but we know that these processes are both rapid and accurate, suggesting that they may be mediated by common neural mechanisms. Here we address this issue by examining how spatial configuration, shape complexity, and luminance polarity of elements affect numerosity estimation. We directly compared the Event Related Potential (ERP) time-course for numerosity estimation under shape and random configurations and found a larger N2 component for shape over lateral-occipital electrodes (250-400ms), which also increased with higher numbers. We identified a Left Mid Frontal (LMF; 400-650ms) component over left-lateralised medial frontal sites that specifically separated low and high numbers of elements, irrespective of their spatial configuration. Different luminance-polarities increased N2 amplitude only, suggesting that shape but not numerosity is selective to polarity. Functional microstates confined numerosity to a strict topographic distribution occurring within the LMF time-window, while a microstate responding only to shape-configuration was evidenced earlier, in the N2 time-window. We conclude that shape-coding precedes numerosity estimation, which can be improved when the number of elements and shape vertices are matched. Thus, numerosity estimation around the subitizing range is facilitated by a shape-template matching process.
Cognitive neuroscience; Electroencephalography – EEG; Perception; Psychophysics
Scientific Reports: Volume 10