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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Feb 28;103(9):3486-9. Epub 2006 Feb 21.

The multisensory representation of number in infancy.

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  • 1Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA.


Human infants can discriminate visual and auditory stimuli solely on the basis of number, suggesting a developmental foundation for the nonverbal number representations of adult humans. Recent studies suggest that these language-independent number representations are multisensory in both adult humans and nonhuman animals. Surprisingly, however, previous studies have yielded mixed evidence concerning whether nonverbal numerical representations independent of sensory modality are present early in human development. In this article, we use a paradigm that avoids stimulus confounds present in previous studies of cross-modal numerical mapping in infants. We show that 7-month-old infants preferentially attend to visual displays of adult humans that numerically match the number of adult humans they hear speaking. These data provide evidence that by 7 months of age, infants connect numerical representations across different sensory modalities when presented with human faces and voices. Results support the possibility of a shared system between preverbal infants and nonverbal animals for representing number.

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