Giovanni Anobile, Irene Petrizzo, Daisy Paiardini, David Burr, Guido Marco Cicchini
Sensorimotor mechanisms selective to numerosity: evidence from individual differences
eLife (in press)
We have previously shown that after few seconds of adaptation by finger-tapping, the perceived numerosity of spatial arrays and temporal sequences of visual objects displayed near the tapping region is increased or decreased, implying the existence of a sensorimotor numerosity system (Anobile et al., 2016). To date, this mechanism has been evidenced only by adaptation. Here we extend our finding by leveraging on a well-established covariance technique, used to unveil and characterize "channels" for basic visual features such as colour, motion, contrast, and spatial frequency. Participants were required to press rapidly a key a specific number of times, without counting. We then correlated the precision of reproduction for various target number presses between participants. The results showed high positive correlations for nearby target numbers, scaling down with numerical distance, implying tuning selectivity. Factor analysis identified two factors, one for low and the other for higher numbers. Principal component analysis revealed two bell-shaped covariance channels, peaking at different numerical values. Two control experiments ruled out the role of non-numerical strategies based on tapping frequency and response duration. These results reinforce our previous reports based on adaptation, and further suggest the existence of at least two sensori-motor number channels responsible for translating symbolic numbers into action sequences.