School of Biomedical Sciences
The Chinese University of Hong Kong 香港中文大學

Research co-led by neuroscientists Prof. Ke Ya at the School of Biomedical Sciences (SBS) of The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and Prof. Yung Wing-ho at City University of Hong Kong (CityUHK) has made a groundbreaking discovery regarding number sense in animals by confirming the existence of discrete number sense in rats, offering a crucial animal model for investigating the neural basis of numerical ability and disability in humans.

The research team has developed an innovative approach that employs a novel numerical learning task, brain manipulation techniques and artificial intelligence modelling, and that resolves an ongoing argument about whether rats have a sense of numbers. The study sheds light on the mechanisms underlying numerical ability. The findings have been published in the renowned multidisciplinary scientific journal Science Advances.

“The study not only solves a long-standing mystery about how brains handle numbers, but also offers new insights into studying the specific neural circuits involved in number processing in animals and how genes are associated with mathematical ability,” Prof. Ke Ya said. “Furthermore, the findings from neural network modelling could have practical applications in the field of artificial intelligence. In the future, our increased understanding of the brain mechanisms underlying the processing of numbers may contribute to the development of interventions for individuals with numerical difficulties.”

The related coverage by the Communications and Public Relations Office and the Faculty of Medicine, CUHK can be viewed HERE and HERE respectively.

(From left) Mr Rong Kanglin, Dr Liang Tuo, and Prof. Ke Ya, co-corresponding author and Professor at SBS.