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Tobias Kluth, Christoph Zetzsche; Numerosity as a topological invariant. Journal of Vision 2016;16(3):30. doi: 10.1167/16.3.30.
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© 2017 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.
The ability to quickly recognize the number of objects in our environment is a fundamental cognitive function. However, it is far from clear which computations and which actual neural processing mechanisms are used to provide us with such a skill. Here we try to provide a detailed and comprehensive analysis of this issue, which comprises both the basic mathematical foundations and the peculiarities imposed by the structure of the visual system and by the neural computations provided by the visual cortex. We suggest that numerosity should be considered as a mathematical invariant. Making use of concepts from mathematical topology—like connectedness, Betti numbers, and the Gauss–Bonnet theorem—we derive the basic computations suited for the computation of this invariant. We show that the computation of numerosity is possible in a neurophysiologically plausible fashion using only computational elements which are known to exist in the visual cortex. We further show that a fundamental feature of numerosity perception, its Weber property, arises naturally, assuming noise in the basic neural operations. The model is tested on an extended data set (made publicly available). It is hoped that our results can provide a general framework for future research on the invariance properties of the numerosity system.
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