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Winter 2016 Talk

Daniel Ansari, Ph.D.

Department of Psychology & Brain and Mind Institute, The University of Western Ontario

Tuesday, January 12 @ 10:30am
Applied Physics & Math Building, room 4301

Number Symbols in the Brain

Numerical symbols are a recent human, cultural invention. In this talk I will provide an overview of what has been learned from cognitive neuroscience research about the way in which numerical symbols (e.g., Arabic numerals) are represented in the brain. To achieve this, I first review the empirical research literature on how numbers are represented in the brain, both in terms of their meaning and perceptual attributes. Next, I examine what is known about developmental changes in the brain representation of number symbols and how individual differences in symbolic number processing skills (such as mental arithmetic) relate to variability in brain activation during symbolic number processing. Furthermore, I will explore what is known about how numerical symbols are linked to non-symbolic representations of numerical quantity (e.g., dot arrays) and conclude that the present evidence does not provide strong support for the notion that symbolic and non-symbolic representations of numerical quantity are tightly connected in the brain. Finally, I will discuss several future directions for research on the brain’s representation of number symbols.


Daniel Ansari is a Professor and Canada Research Chair in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience in the Department of Psychology at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, where he heads the Numerical Cognition Laboratory Ansari and his team explore the developmental trajectory underlying both the typical and atypical development of numerical and mathematical skills, using both behavioral and neuroimaging methods. He serves as an Associate Editor of the peer-reviewed journals, PLoS ONE, Developmental Science and Mind, Brain and Education and is on the Senior Editorial Advisory Board of Educational Neuroscience. Ansari has received the ‘Early Career Contributions’ Award from the Society for Research in Child Development the Boyd McCandless Early Researcher Award from the American Psychological Association. In 2014, Ansari was named as a member of the inaugural cohort of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada.