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Justin Halberda, Daphne Bavelier, Barbara Landau, Kerstin Hellgren, Lea Forsman, Ted Jacques, Melissa Libertus; Training of Number Sense Transfers Broadly. Journal of Vision 2013;13(9):1086. doi: 10.1167/13.9.1086.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
We explore individual differences in the precision of the Approximate Number System (ANS), and the trainability of this key process for apprehending the number of objects in our environment. This system, anchored in the dorsal stream, impacts many of our decisions – from trying to determine the fastest cashier line at the grocery to high-order cognitive tasks such as school arithmetic. The ability to improve its precision through training therefore holds the promise to impact many different aspects of cognition. Here we show that the precision of the ANS is highly plastic, being compromised or enhanced in various populations. In individuals with dorsal stream abnormalities, such as Williams Syndrome or pre-term infants, we find reduced ANS precision. In contrast, in individuals known to have enhanced dorsal stream functions such as action video game players, we find that the precision of the ANS is enhanced (see Supplemental). We then establish that the ANS can be trained and that the benefit of training transfers broadly. Adults trained on action video games exhibit improved performance on tasks related to the ANS including speeded symbolic arithmetic challenges. Children trained with a visually-based number training protocol also showed greater ANS precision as well as transfer to auditory number discrimination (see Supplemental). Our results demonstrate a large plasticity in the precision of the ANS. This system is impacted – for better or for worse – by both genetic and environmental factors. Crucially, its precision can be trained with the induced improvement transferring to untrained modalities and to high-order cognitive tasks. We take the ANS to be a model system of how the more abstract representations of the dorsal stream may be responsive to training and how their precision can affect cognition quite broadly.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2013
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