C.Caponi, E. Castaldi, D.C. Burr, P. Binda

Adaptation to numerosity affects the pupillary light response

Sci Rep 14, 6097 (2024)

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-024-55646-w Download

We recently showed that the gain of the pupillary light response depends on numerosity, with weaker responses to fewer items. Here we show that this effect holds when the stimuli are physically identical but are perceived as less numerous due to numerosity adaptation. Twenty-eight participants adapted to low (10 dots) or high (160 dots) numerosities and subsequently watched arrays of 10–40 dots, with variable or homogeneous dot size. Luminance was constant across all stimuli. Pupil size was measured with passive viewing, and the effects of adaptation were checked in a separate psychophysical session. We found that perceived numerosity was systematically lower, and pupillary light responses correspondingly smaller, following adaptation to high rather than low numerosities. This is consistent with numerosity being a primary visual feature, spontaneously encoded even when task irrelevant, and affecting automatic and unconscious behaviours like the pupillary light response.