NeuroImage (Feb 2024)

Cortical quantity representations of visual numerosity and timing overlap increasingly into superior cortices but remain distinct

  • Evi Hendrikx,
  • Jacob M. Paul,
  • Martijn van Ackooij,
  • Nathan van der Stoep,
  • Ben M. Harvey

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 286
p. 120515


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Many sensory brain areas are organized as topographic maps where neural response preferences change gradually across the cortical surface. Within association cortices, 7-Tesla fMRI and neural model-based analyses have also revealed many topographic maps for quantities like numerosity and event timing, often in similar locations. Numerical and temporal quantity estimations also show behavioral similarities and even interactions. For example, the duration of high-numerosity displays is perceived as longer than that of low-numerosity displays. Such interactions are often ascribed to a generalized magnitude system with shared neural responses across quantities. Anterior quantity responses are more closely linked to behavior. Here, we investigate whether common quantity representations hierarchically emerge by asking whether numerosity and timing maps become increasingly closely related in their overlap, response preferences, and topography. While the earliest quantity maps do not overlap, more superior maps overlap increasingly. In these overlapping areas, some intraparietal maps have consistently correlated numerosity and timing preferences, and some maps have consistent angles between the topographic progressions of numerosity and timing preferences. However, neither of these relationships increases hierarchically like the amount of overlap does. Therefore, responses to different quantities are initially derived separately, then progressively brought together, without generally becoming a common representation. Bringing together distinct responses to different quantities may underlie behavioral interactions and allow shared access to comparison and action planning systems.