Early dissociation of numbers and letters in the human brain
MetadataShow full item record
Sara Aurtenetxe, Nicola Molinaro, Doug Davidson, Manuel Carreiras, Early dissociation of numbers and letters in the human brain, Cortex, Volume 130, 2020, Pages 192-202, ISSN 0010-9452, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2020.03.030.
Numbers and letters are culturally created symbols which are learned through repeated training. This experience leads to a functional specialization of the perceptual system of our brain. Recent evidence suggests a neural dissociation between these two symbols. While previous literature has shown that letters elicit a left lateralized neural response, new studies suggest that numbers elicit preferentially a bilateral or right lateralized response. However, the time course of the neural patterns that characterize this dissociation is still underspecified. In the present study, we investigated with magnetoencephalography (MEG) the spatio-temporal dynamics of the neural response generated by numbers, letters and perceptually matched false fonts presented visually. Twenty-five healthy adults were recorded while participants performed a dot detection task. By including two experiments, we were able to study the effects of single characters as well as those of strings of characters. The signal analysis was focused on the event related fields (ERF) of the MEG signal in the sensors and in the source space. The main results of our study showed an early (<200 msec) preferential dissociation between single numbers and single letters on occipito-temporal sensors. When comparing strings of numbers and pseudowords, they differed also over prefrontal regions of the brain. These data offer a new example of acquired category-specific responses in the human brain.