Ongoing Projects

Research Themes

Numerical Magnitude Processing

Humans and many other species possess a remarkable ability to understand numerical quantity. For example, judging how many apples are in one pile versus another pile, or how many dots are on one side of a screen versus the other. Some theories suggest that this ability reflects an innate ability to represent and process magnitude, and that such abilities are an important foundation for math development. 

Research in our lab aims to investigate the origins and characteristics of these abilities so that we can understand how they relate to math skills. For example, we use eye-tracking methods to investigate whether how the eyes move when viewing different numerical stimuli can provide information about how those stimuli are processed. We also use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brain while people process numbers to investigate how different characteristics of the numbers affect brain activation, in order to understand what it is about numbers that causes the brain to behave in certain ways.

Symbolic Number Processing

Arabic digits (e.g. 1,2,3,4,5) are one of the mostly widely used symbol sets in the world. Being able to represent and process numbers symbolically has enabled incredible advances in human civilization, from medicine, to computing, to space travel. However, despite their importance, and wide spread use, little is known about how the human brain represents Arabic digits as numerical symbols, and how that representation develops over the lifespan. 

In our lab we use fMRI and behavioral studies to investigate how symbolic numbers (i.e. Arabic digits) are processed in the brain, and how those processes relate to other numerical formats such as nonsymbolic collections of items.