Pharmacological inactivation does not support a unique causal role for intraparietal sulcus in the discrimination of visual number.
The "number sense" describes the intuitive ability to quantify without counting. Single neuron recordings in non-human primates and functional imaging in humans suggest the intraparietal sulcus is an important neuroanatomical locus of numerical estimation. Other lines of inquiry implicate the IPS in numerous other functions, including attention and decision making. Here we provide a direct test of whether IPS has functional specificity for numerosity judgments. We used muscimol to reversibly and independently inactivate the ventral and lateral intraparietal areas in two monkeys performing a numerical discrimination task and a color discrimination task, roughly equilibrated for difficulty. Inactivation of either area caused parallel impairments in both tasks and no evidence of a selective deficit in numerical processing. These findings do not support a causal role for the IPS in numerical discrimination, except insofar as it also has a role in the discrimination of color. We discuss our findings in light of several alternative hypotheses of IPS function, including a role in orienting responses, a general cognitive role in attention and decision making processes and a more specific role in ordinal comparison that encompasses both number and color judgments.
DeWind, NK; Peng, J; Luo, A; Brannon, EM; Platt, ML
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