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Effects of symbol type and numerical distance on the human event-related potential


This study investigated the influence of the symbol type and numerical distance of numbers on the amplitudes and peak latencies of event-related potentials (ERPs). Our aim was to (1) determine the point in time of magnitude information access in visual number processing; and (2) identify at what stage the advantage of Arabic digits over Chinese verbal numbers occur. ERPs were recorded from 64 scalp sites while subjects (n=26) performed a classification task. Results showed that larger ERP amplitudes were elicited by numbers with distance-close condition in comparison to distance-far condition in the VPP component over centro-frontal sites. Furthermore, the VPP latency varied as a function of the symbol type, but the N170 did not. Such results demonstrate that magnitude information access takes place as early as 150 ms after onset of visual number stimuli and the advantage of Arabic digits over verbal numbers should be localized to the VPP component. We establish the VPP component as a critical ERP component to report in studies of numerical cognition and our results call into question the N170/VPP association hypothesis and the serial-stage model of visual number comparison processing.

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