Several functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have used neural adaptation paradigms to detect anatomical locations of brain activity related to number processing. However, currently not much is known about the temporal structure of number adaptation. In the present study, we used electroencephalography (EEG) to elucidate the time course of neural events in symbolic number adaptation. The numerical distance of deviants relative to standards was manipulated. In order to avoid perceptual confounds, all levels of deviants consisted of perceptually identical stimuli. Multiple successive numerical distance effects were detected in event-related potentials (ERPs). Analysis of oscillatory activity further showed at least two distinct stages of neural processes involved in the automatic analysis of numerical magnitude, with the earlier effect emerging at around 200. ms and the later effect appearing at around 400. ms. The findings support for the hypothesis that numerical magnitude processing involves a succession of cognitive events.
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