An intriguing hypothesis to explain the ubiquity of numerical abilities is that all vertebrates are born with hardwired neuronal networks for processing numbers. To date, only studies on human foetuses have clearly supported this hypothesis. Zebrafish hatch 48–72 h after fertilisation with an embryonic nervous system, providing a unique opportunity for investigating this hypothesis. Here, we demonstrated that zebrafish larvae exposed to vertical bars at birth acquired an attraction for bar stimuli and we developed a numerical discrimination task based on this preference. When tested with a series of discriminations of increasing difficulty (1vs.4, 1vs.3, 1vs.2, and 2vs.4 bars), zebrafish larvae reliably selected the greater numerosity. The preference was significant when stimuli were matched for surface area, luminance, density, and convex hull, thereby suggesting a true capacity to process numerical information. Converging results from two phylogenetically distant species suggests that numerical abilities might be a hallmark feature of vertebrates’ brains.

Quantity discrimination in newly hatched zebrafish suggests hardwired numerical abilities

Lucon-Xiccato T.
Co-primo
;
Gatto E.
Co-primo
;
2023

Abstract

An intriguing hypothesis to explain the ubiquity of numerical abilities is that all vertebrates are born with hardwired neuronal networks for processing numbers. To date, only studies on human foetuses have clearly supported this hypothesis. Zebrafish hatch 48–72 h after fertilisation with an embryonic nervous system, providing a unique opportunity for investigating this hypothesis. Here, we demonstrated that zebrafish larvae exposed to vertical bars at birth acquired an attraction for bar stimuli and we developed a numerical discrimination task based on this preference. When tested with a series of discriminations of increasing difficulty (1vs.4, 1vs.3, 1vs.2, and 2vs.4 bars), zebrafish larvae reliably selected the greater numerosity. The preference was significant when stimuli were matched for surface area, luminance, density, and convex hull, thereby suggesting a true capacity to process numerical information. Converging results from two phylogenetically distant species suggests that numerical abilities might be a hallmark feature of vertebrates’ brains.
2023
Lucon-Xiccato, T.; Gatto, E.; Fontana, C. M.; Bisazza, A.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11392/2509771
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