Mapping number to space in the two hemispheres of the avian brain

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Abstract

Pre-verbal infants and non-human animals associate small numbers with the left space and large numbers with the right space. Birds and primates, trained to identify a given position in a sagittal series of identical positions, whenever required to respond on a left/right oriented series, referred the given position starting from the left end. Here, we extended this evidence by selectively investigating the role of either cerebral hemisphere, using the temporary monocular occlusion technique. In birds, lacking the corpus callosum, visual input is fed mainly to the contralateral hemisphere. We trained 4-day-old chicks to identify the 4th element in a sagittal series of 10 identical elements. At test, the series was identical but left/right oriented. Test was conducted in right monocular, left monocular or binocular condition of vision. Right monocular chicks pecked at the 4th right element; left monocular and binocular chicks pecked at the 4th left element. Data on monocular chicks demonstrate that both hemispheres deal with an ordinal (sequential) task. Data on binocular chicks indicate that the left bias is linked to a right hemisphere dominance, that allocates the attention toward the left hemispace. This constitutes a first step towards understanding the neural basis of number space mapping.

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