Back to research topics

The Genetics of numeracy and the evolutionary basis of numbers; can fish count?

  • Date: 2017-2020
  • Project leader: Eva Sheardown & Jose Torres-Perez

The ability to represent number discrimination of a set of objects as a numerosity skill is thought to be lanuage independent and has previously been shown across different vertebrates including mammals and fish. Not much is known about the genetics and neural mechanism underlying numerosity. The project is particularly interested in finding a genetic mechanism associated with numerosity using zebrafish.

More specifically, we are testing the hypothesis that the ability to represent number is genetically regulated and has an evolutionarily conserved basis. The research aims are as follows:

(1) to develop an automated behavioural assay to assess the numerical ability of zebrafish;
(2) to characterise the numerical ability of adult wildtype zebrafish;
(3) to identify genetic variants that influence adult zebrafish performance; and
(4) to establish whether there is overlap in the genetic loci that affect zebrafish and human number cognition.

If there is significant overlap, then zebrafish could be used as a model organism to study the neural circuitry that underlies number processing, which one day could lead to the development of treatments for dyscalculia (a specific learning difficulty for mathematics).