My brain knows numbers! - an ERP study of preschoolers' numerical knowledge

Tamar Ben-Shalom, Andrea Berger, Avishai Henik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study investigated brain activity in numerical processing at early stages of development. Brain activity of preschoolers was measured while they performed a numerical Stroop task. Participants were asked to decide which of two digits was numerically or physically larger. Behavioral distance and size congruity effects (SiCEs) were found. However, a reverse facilitation was observed, where responses to neutral trials were faster than to congruent ones. The event-related potentials data showed the expected distance effect at occipitoparietal scalp areas. Moreover, conflict was related to effects both at frontal and parietal scalp areas. In addition, there was a difference between the timing of the interference compared to the facilitation components in the SiCE. In parietal scalp areas, facilitation was significant in an early time window and interference was significant at a later time window. This is consistent with the idea that facilitation and interference are separate processes. Our findings indicate that children as young as 5-6 years old can automatically process the numerical meaning of numerals. In addition, our findings are consistent with the idea that, children might use both frontal and parietal areas in order to process irrelevant numerical information.

Original languageEnglish GB
Pages (from-to)716
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
StatePublished - 2013


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