Multiple object individuation and exact enumeration

Veronica Mazza, Silvia Pagano, Alfonso Caramazza
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 2013, 25 (5): 697-705
Exact computation of numerosity requires the selective individuation of the elements to be enumerated so that each element is counted once and only once. Such a mechanism should operate not only when the elements to be enumerated are presented in isolation but also when they are presented in cluttered scenes. To uncover the electrophysiological correlates of the level of object representation necessary for exact enumeration, we examined ERP measures during the execution of a target enumeration task. A variable number (1-4) of lateralized targets were presented with or without distracters on the target side. An early nonlateralized response (N1, 120-180 msec) was modulated by target numerosity only when presented without distracters. By contrast, the amplitudes of a lateralized and later response (N2pc, 180-300 msec) increased as a function of target numerosity both with and without distracters, reaching a plateau at three targets. We propose that the stage of processing reflected in the N2pc corresponds to the component of individuation that binds specific indexes to properties and locations and that this provides the representation type necessary for exact enumeration.

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