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Can animals count? Neuroscientists at CityUHK and CUHK resolve long-standing debate | City University of Hong Kong

๐ŸŒˆ Abstract

The article discusses a groundbreaking discovery by neuroscientists regarding the number sense in animals, particularly rats. The research team has developed an innovative approach to resolve the long-standing debate on whether rats have a sense of numbers, and their findings shed light on the mechanisms underlying numerical ability.

๐Ÿ™‹ Q&A

[01] Can animals count?

  • The research confirms the existence of discrete number sense in rats, offering a crucial animal model for investigating the neural basis of numerical ability and disability in humans.
  • The study found that rats without any previous knowledge of numbers were able to develop a sense of numbers when trained with sounds representing two or three numbers. This suggests that the brain has a specific area for dealing with numbers.
  • The study helps dissect the relationship between magnitude and numerosity processing, demonstrating that when a specific part of the rats' brain (posterior parietal cortex) was blocked, their ability to understand numbers was affected but not their sense of magnitude.

[02] Significance of the findings

  • The study not only solves a long-standing mystery about how brains handle numbers, but also offers new insights into studying the specific neural circuits involved in number processing in animals and how genes are associated with mathematical ability.
  • The findings from neural network modelling could have practical applications in the field of artificial intelligence, and the increased understanding of the brain mechanisms underlying the processing of numbers may contribute to the development of interventions for individuals with numerical difficulties.
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