We have a sixth sense. All of us. And it is not the ability we saw in the famous movie with the little guy telling Bruce Willis “I see dead people“. It is the ability to understand and work with numbers. Numerosity is our sixth sense and there is a specific brain region that ‘hosts’ this ability. The results of the study conducted by researchers of Utrecht University in the Netherlands argue that the importance of this ability and the “space” it occupies in our brains are analogous to the other known five senses.
Numerosity as a sense has nothing to do with the use of symbolic numbers. We use the symbols of numbers to express quantity or size, but, in essence, the sense that determines our ability to perceive sizes and amounts has to do with visual stimuli.
How did the scientists manage to map the sixth sense? They asked 8 adults to observe a number of dot sequences with different number of dots in each of them. During that, the participants were submitted to the magnetic resonance tomography of the brain, while their nervous reactions to each sequence were being observed. Then the scientists integrated the data into a simulation model of the human brain, which aims to measure the neural response. Thus, they managed to identify the brain region in which our sixth sense resides.
The study was published in the Science magazine.