Friday, March 28, 2008

The mind's eye in number space

From Loetscher et al., an interesting bit on how our subtle muscle movements correlate with counting operations - numbers and space:
Human subjects' answer to questions like “what number is halfway between 2 and 8” provides insights into spatial attention mechanisms involved in numerical processing. Here we show that mental numerical bisections are accompanied by a systematic pattern of horizontal eye movements: processing of a large number followed by a small number is accompanied with leftward eye movements, a tendency less pronounced or even reversed for the processing of a small number followed by a large number. The eyes thus appear to move along a left-to-right-oriented number line, indicating that shifts of attention in representational space are accompanied by an ocular motor orienting response. These results add to the growing evidence for a convergence of numerical processing, spatial attention, and movement planning in the parietal and frontal lobes. They also demonstrate the homologous relationship between our internal representations of numbers and space, and show that the concept of “number space” is more than a mere metaphor.

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