Mechanisms for perception of numerosity or texture-density are governed by crowding-like effects,Journal of Vision, 15(5), 1-12.

We have recently provided evidence that the perception of number and texture density is mediated by two independent mechanisms: numerosity mechanisms at relatively low numbers, obeying Weber’s law, and texture-density mechanisms at higher numerosities, following a square root law. In this study we investigated whether the switch between the two mechanisms depends on the capacity to segregate individual dots, and therefore follows similar laws to those governing visual crowding. We measured numerosity discrimination for a wide range of numerosities at three eccentricities. We found that the point where the numerosity regime (Weber’s law) gave way to the density regime (square root law) depended on eccentricity. In central vision, the regime changed at 2.3 dots/82, while at 158 eccentricity, it changed at 0.5 dots/82, three times less dense. As a consequence, thresholds for low numerosities increased with eccentricity, while at higher numerosities thresholds remained constant. We further showed that like crowding, the regime change was independent of dot size, depending on distance between dot centers, not distance between dot edges or ink coverage. Performance was not affected by stimulus contrast or blur, indicating that the transition does not depend on low-level stimulus properties. Our results reinforce the notion that numerosity and texture are mediated by two distinct processes, depending on whether the individual elements are perceptually segregable. Which mechanism is engaged follows laws that determine crowding.

The oblique effect is both allocentric and egocentric,Journal of Vision, 8 (15), 24-24.

Despite continuous movements of the head, humans maintain a stable representation of the visual world, which seems to remain always upright. The mechanisms behind this stability are largely unknown. To gain some insight on how head tilt affects visual perception, we investigate whether a well-known orientation-dependent visual phenomenon, the oblique effect—superior performance for stimuli at cardinal orientations (0° and 90°) compared with oblique orientations (45°)—is anchored in egocentric or allocentric coordinates. To this aim, we measured orientation discrimination thresholds at various orientations for different head positions both in body upright and in supine positions. We report that, in the body upright position, the oblique effect remains anchored in allocentric coordinates irrespective of head position. When lying supine, gravitational effects in the plane orthogonal to gravity are discounted. Under these conditions, the oblique effect was less marked than when upright, and anchored in egocentric coordinates. The results are well explained by a simple “compulsory fusion” model in which the head-based and the gravity-based signals are combined with different weightings (30% and 70%, respectively), even when this leads to reduced sensitivity in orientation discrimination.

Number as a primary perceptual attribute: a review, Perception 1-27 DOI: 10.1177/0301006615602599.

Although humans are the only species to possess language-driven abstract mathematical capacities, we share with many other animals a nonverbal capacity for estimating quantities or numerosity. For some time, researchers have clearly differentiated between small numbers of items—less than about four—referred to as the subitizing range, and larger numbers, where counting or estimation is required. In this review, we examine more recent evidence suggesting a further division, between sets of items greater than the subitizing range, but sparse enough to be individuated as single items; and densely packed stimuli, where they crowd each other into what is betterconsidered as a texture. These two different regimes are psychophysically discriminable in that they follow distinct psychophysical laws and show different dependencies on eccentricity and on luminance levels. But provided the elements are not too crowded (less than about two items per square degree in central vision, less in the periphery), there is little evidence that estimation of numerosity depends on mechanisms responsive to texture. The distinction is important, as the ability to discriminate numerosity, but not texture, correlates with formal maths skills.

Atypicalities in perceptual adaptation in autism do not extend to perceptual causality,PLoS One, 3 (10), e0120439.

A recent study showed that adaptation to causal events (collisions) in adults caused subsequent events to be less likely perceived as causal. In this study, we examined if a similar negative adaptation effect for perceptual causality occurs in children, both typically developing and with autism. Previous studies have reported diminished adaptation for face identity, facial configuration and gaze direction in children with autism. To test whether diminished adaptive coding extends beyond high-level social stimuli (such as faces) and could be a general property of autistic perception, we developed a child-friendly paradigm for adaptation of perceptual causality. We compared the performance of 22 children with autism with 22 typically developing children, individually matched on age and ability (IQ scores). We found significant and equally robust adaptation aftereffects for perceptual causality in both groups. There were also no differences between the two groups in their attention, as revealed by reaction times and accuracy in a change-detection task. These findings suggest that adaptation to perceptual causality in autism is largely similar to typical development and, further, that diminished adaptive coding might not be a general characteristic of autism at low levels of the perceptual hierarchy, constraining existing theories of adaptation in autism.

Numerical estimation in children with autism,Autism Res.

Number skills are often reported anecdotally and in the mass media as a relative strength for individuals with autism, yet there are remarkably few research studies addressing this issue. This study, therefore, sought to examine autistic children’s number estimation skills and whether variation in these skills can explain at least in part strengths and weaknesses in children’s mathematical achievement. Thirty-two cognitively able children with autism (range = 8-13 years) and 32 typical children of similar age and ability were administered a standardized test of mathematical achievement and two estimation tasks, one psychophysical nonsymbolic estimation (numerosity discrimination) task and one symbolic estimation (numberline) task. Children with autism performed worse than typical children on the numerosity task, on the numberline task, which required mapping numerical values onto space, and on the test of mathematical achievement. These findings question the widespread belief that mathematical skills are generally enhanced in autism. For both groups of children, variation in performance on the numberline task was also uniquely related to their academic achievement, over and above variation in intellectual ability; better number-to-space mapping skills went hand-in-hand with better arithmetic skills. Future research should further determine the extent and underlying causes of some autistic children’s difficulties with regards to number. Autism Res 2015. (c) 2015 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Time, number and attention in very low birth weight children,Neuropsychologia, 2015

Abstract Premature birth has been associated with damage in many regions of the cerebral cortex, although there is a particularly strong susceptibility for damage within the parieto-occipital lobes (Volpe, 2009). As these areas have been shown to be critical for both visual attention and magnitudes perception (time, space, and number), it is important to investigate the impact of prematurity on both the magnitude and attentional systems, particularly for children without overt white matter injuries, where the lack of obvious injury may cause their difficulties to remain unnoticed. In this study, we investigated the ability to judge time intervals (visual, audio and audio-visual temporal bisection), discriminate between numerical quantities (numerosity comparison), map numbers onto space (numberline task) and to maintain visuo-spatial attention (multiple-object-tracking) in school-age preterm children (N29). The results show that various parietal functions may be more or less robust to prematurity-related difficulties, with strong impairments found on time estimation and attentional task, while numerical discrimination or mapping tasks remained relatively unimpaired. Thus while our study generally supports the hypothesis of a dorsal stream vulnerability in children born preterm relative to other cortical locations, it further suggests that particular cognitive processes, as highlighted by performance on different tasks, are far more susceptible than others.

Children with autism spectrum disorder show reduced adaptation to number,Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(25): 7868-7872.

Autism is known to be associated with major perceptual atypicalities. We have recently proposed a general model to account for these atypicalities in Bayesian terms, suggesting that autistic individuals underuse predictive information or priors. We tested this idea by measuring adaptation to numerosity stimuli in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). After exposure to large numbers of items, stimuli with fewer items appear to be less numerous (and vice versa). We found that children with ASD adapted much less to numerosity than typically developing children, although their precision for numerosity discrimination was similar to that of the typical group. This result reinforces recent findings showing reduced adaptation to facial identity in ASD and goes on to show that reduced adaptation is not unique to faces (social stimuli with special significance in autism), but occurs more generally, for both parietal and temporal functions, probably reflecting inefficiencies in the adaptive interpretation of sensory signals. These results provide strong support for the Bayesian theories of autism.

Visual mislocalization during saccade sequences,Exp Brain Res, 2 (233), 577-585.

Visual objects briefly presented around the time of saccadic eye movements are perceived compressed towards the saccade target. Here, we investigated perisaccadic mislocalization with a double-step saccade paradigm, measuring localization of small probe dots briefly flashed at various times around the sequence of the two saccades. At onset of the first saccade, probe dots were mislocalized towards the first and, to a lesser extent, also towards the second saccade target. However, there was very little mislocalization at the onset of the second saccade. When we increased the presentation duration of the saccade targets prior to onset of the saccade sequence, perisaccadic mislocalization did occur at the onset of the second saccade.