JESSICA CANTLON, University of Rochester
Title: Math, monkeys, and the developing brain
Ebbinghaus Empire Series 2016-2017
Abstract: The types of cognitive and neural mechanisms that are available to children will depend partly on the problems their brains evolved to solve over the past millions of years. My research uses comparative cognition methods and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) with human children, adults, and non-human primates to understand the evolution and development of mathematics in the human brain. Comparative research on numerical cognition with humans and non-human primates has revealed a homologous system for quantity representation that lays the foundation for human mathematics development. Non-human primates share many human abilities to represent and compute quantities. While there are remarkable similarities between how humans and other primates conceive of quantity, humans are unique from other animals in their capacity for symbolic counting and logic. These uniquely human aspects of learning expand and alter the primitive systems of numerical representation in the human brain.
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