Paolo A Grasso, Irene Petrizzo, Camilla Caponi, Giovanni Anobile, Roberto Arrighi

Visual P2p component responds to perceived numerosity

Frontiers in Human Neuroscience

https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2022.1014703 Download

Numerosity perception is a key ability for human and non-human species, probably mediated by dedicated brain mechanisms. Electrophysiological studies revealed the existence of both early and mid-latency components of the Electrophysiological (EEG) signal sensitive to numerosity changes. However, it is still unknown whether these components respond to physical or perceived variation in numerical attributes. We here tackled this point by recording electrophysiological signal while participants performed a numerosity adaptation task, a robust psychophysical method yielding changes in perceived numerosity judgments despite physical numerosity invariance. Behavioral measures confirmed that the test stimulus was consistently underestimated when presented after a high numerous adaptor while perceived as veridical when presented after a neutral adaptor. Congruently, EEG results revealed a potential at around 200 ms (P2p) which was reduced when the test stimulus was presented after the high numerous adaptor. This result was much prominent over the left posterior cluster of electrodes and correlated significantly with the amount of adaptation. No earlier modulations were retrievable when changes in numerosity were illusory while both early and mid-latency modulations occurred for physical changes. Taken together, our results reveal that mid-latency P2p mainly reflects perceived changes in numerical attributes, while earlier components are likely to be bounded to the physical characteristics of the stimuli. These results suggest that short-term plastic mechanisms induced by numerosity adaptation may involve a relatively late processing stage of the visual hierarchy likely engaging cortical areas beyond the primary visual cortex. Furthermore, these results also indicate mid-latency electrophysiological correlates as a signature of the internal representation of numerical information.