Symbolic and non symbolic numerical representation in adults with and without developmental dyscalculia

Tamar Furman, Orly Rubinsten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The question whether Developmental Dyscalculia (DD; a deficit in the ability to process numerical information) is the result of deficiencies in the non symbolic numerical representation system (e.g., a group of dots) or in the symbolic numerical representation system (e.g., Arabic numerals) has been debated in scientific literature. It is accepted that the non symbolic system is divided into two different ranges, the subitizing range (i.e., quantities from 1-4) which is processed automatically and quickly, and the counting range (i.e., quantities larger than 4) which is an attention demanding procedure and is therefore processed serially and slowly. However, so far no study has tested the automaticity of symbolic and non symbolic representation in DD participants separately for the subitizing and the counting ranges.Methods: DD and control participants undergo a novel version of the Stroop task, i.e., the Enumeration Stroop. They were presented with a random series of between one and nine written digits, and were asked to name either the relevant written digit (in the symbolic task) or the relevant quantity of digits (in the non symbolic task) while ignoring the irrelevant aspect.Result: DD participants, unlike the control group, didn't show any congruency effect in the subitizing range of the non symbolic task.Conclusion: These findings suggest that DD may be impaired in the ability to process symbolic numerical information or in the ability to automatically associate the two systems (i.e., the symbolic vs. the non symbolic). Additionally DD have deficiencies in the non symbolic counting range.

Original languageEnglish
Article number55
JournalBehavioral and Brain Functions
StatePublished - 28 Nov 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Work by O. Rubinsten was conducted under the auspices of the Center for the Study of the Neurocognitive Basis of Numerical Cognition, supported by the Israel Science Foundation (grant number 1664/08) as part of their Centers of Excellence.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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