Stanislas Dehaene's research while affiliated with Collège de France and other places

Publications (590)

Article
In various cultures and at all spatial scales, humans produce a rich complexity of geometric shapes such as lines, circles or spirals. Here, we propose that humans possess a language of thought for geometric shapes that can produce line drawings as recursive combinations of a minimal set of geometric primitives. We present a programming language, s...
Article
According to a growing body of research, human adults are remarkably accurate at extracting intuitive statistics from graphs, such as finding the best-fitting regression line through a scatterplot. Here, we ask whether humans can also perform outlier rejection, a nontrivial statistical problem. In three experiments, we investigated human adults' ca...
Preprint
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In expert readers, a brain region known as the visual word form area (VWFA) is highly sensitive to written words, exhibiting a posterior-to-anterior gradient of increasing sensitivity to orthographic stimuli whose statistics match those of real words. Using high-resolution 7T fMRI, we ask whether, in bilingual readers, distinct cortical patches spe...
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Data plots are widely used in science, journalism and politics, since they efficiently allow to depict a large amount of information. Graphicacy, the ability to understand graphs, thus became a fundamental cultural skill. Here, we introduce a new measure of graphicacy that assesses the ability to detect a trend in noisy scatterplots (does this grap...
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According to the language of thought hypothesis, regular sequences are compressed in human working memory using recursive loops akin to a mental program that predicts future items. We tested this theory by probing working memory for 16-item sequences made of two sounds. We recorded brain activity with functional MRI and magneto-encephalography (MEG...
Preprint
Humans can readily assess their degree of confidence in their decisions. Two models of confidence computation have been proposed: post-hoc computation using post-decision variables and heuristics, versus online computation using continuous assessment of evidence throughout the decision-making process. Here, we arbitrate between these theories by co...
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Many teaching websites, such as the Khan Academy, propose vivid videos illustrating a mathematical concept. Using fMRI, we asked whether watching such a video suffices to rapidly change the brain networks for mathematical knowledge. We capitalized on the finding that, when judging the truth of short spoken statements, distinct semantic regions acti...
Article
Exponential growth is frequently underestimated, an error that can have a heavy social cost in the context of epidemics. To clarify its origins, we measured the human capacity (N = 521) to extrapolate linear and exponential trends in scatterplots. Four factors were manipulated: the function underlying the data (linear or exponential), the response...
Article
Full-text available
Detecting and learning temporal regularities is essential to accurately predict the future. A long-standing debate in cognitive science concerns the existence in humans of a dissociation between two systems, one for handling statistical regularities governing the probabilities of individual items and their transitions, and another for handling dete...
Article
Natural language is often seen as the single factor that explains the cognitive singularity of the human species. Instead, we propose that humans possess multiple internal languages of thought, akin to computer languages, which encode and compress structures in various domains (mathematics, music, shape…). These languages rely on cortical circuits...
Preprint
Sequence processing in humans is thought to rely on two distinct mechanisms: the computation of transition probabilities between adjacent elements and the extraction of larger hierarchical structures. Previous studies indicate that both mechanisms contribute to auditory sequence processing, but whether language processing involves one or the other...
Article
Several theories of decision making assume that optimal decisions are reached by computing a prior distribution over possible responses, and then updating it according to the evidence received. We show how this prior replacement, with its two processing stages, can be captured with a simple behavioral method: tracking the finger movement as partici...
Preprint
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Individual brains vary in both anatomy and functional organization, even within a given species. Inter-individual variability is a major impediment when trying to draw generalizable conclusions from neuroimaging data collected on groups of subjects. Current co-registration procedures rely on limited data, and thus lead to very coarse inter-subject...
Preprint
Language models demonstrate both quantitative improvement and new qualitative capabilities with increasing scale. Despite their potentially transformative impact, these new capabilities are as yet poorly characterized. In order to inform future research, prepare for disruptive new model capabilities, and ameliorate socially harmful effects, it is v...
Article
Full-text available
Although words and faces activate neighboring regions in the fusiform gyrus, we lack an understanding of how such category selectivity emerges during development. To investigate the organization of reading and face circuits at the earliest stage of reading acquisition, we measured the fMRI responses to words, faces, houses, and checkerboards in thr...
Article
Reading words aloud is a fundamental aspect of literacy. The rapid rate at which multiple distributed neural substrates are engaged in this process can only be probed via techniques with high spatiotemporal resolution. We probed this with direct intracranial recordings covering most of the left hemisphere in 46 humans (26 male, 20 female) as they r...
Preprint
Full-text available
According to a growing body of research, human adults are remarkably accurate at extracting intuitive statistics from graphs, such as finding the best-fitting regression line through a scatterplot. Here, we ask whether humans can also perform outlier rejection, a non-trivial statistical problem. In three experiments, we investigated human adults’ c...
Preprint
Full-text available
Although words and faces activate neighboring regions in the fusiform gyrus, we lack an understanding of how such category selectivity emerges during development. To investigate the organization of reading and face circuits at the earliest stage of reading acquisition, we measured the fMRI responses to words, faces, houses, and checkerboards in thr...
Article
Full-text available
Loss of consciousness is associated with the disruption of long-range thalamocortical and corticocortical brain communication. We tested the hypothesis that deep brain stimulation (DBS) of central thalamus might restore both arousal and awareness following consciousness loss. We applied anesthesia to suppress consciousness in nonhuman primates. Dur...
Article
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The role of the primate prefrontal cortex (PFC) in conscious perception is debated. The global neuronal workspace theory of consciousness predicts that PFC neurons should contain a detailed code of the current conscious contents. Previous research showed that PFC is indeed activated in paradigms of conscious visual perception, including no-report p...
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A growing body of evidence suggests that conscious perception of a sensory stimulus triggers an all-or-none activity across multiple cortical areas, a phenomenon called 'ignition'. In contrast, the same stimulus, when undetected, induces only transient activity. In this work, we report a large-scale model of the macaque cortex based on recently qua...
Article
How the brain stores a sequence in memory remains largely unknown. We investigated the neural code underlying sequence working memory using two-photon calcium imaging to record thousands of neurons in the prefrontal cortex of macaque monkeys memorizing and then reproducing a sequence of locations after a delay. We discovered a regular geometrical o...
Preprint
Why do geometric shapes such as lines, circles, zig-zags or spirals appear in all human cultures, but are never produced by other animals? Here, we formalize and test the hypothesis that all humans possess a compositional language of thought that can produce line drawings as recursive combinations of a minimal set of geometric primitives. We presen...
Article
Full-text available
Sequence learning is a ubiquitous facet of human and animal cognition. Here, using a common sequence reproduction task, we investigated whether and how the ordinal and relational structures linking consecutive elements are acquired by human adults, children, and macaque monkeys. While children and monkeys exhibited significantly lower precision tha...
Article
Full-text available
Numeracy is of critical importance for scholastic success and modern-day living, but the precise mechanisms that drive its development are poorly understood. Here we used novel experimental training methods to begin to investigate the role of symbols in the development of numeracy in preschool-aged children. We assigned pre-school children in the U...
Preprint
Full-text available
Recursive processing is considered a hallmark of human linguistic abilities. A recent study evaluated recursive processing in recurrent neural language models (RNN-LMs) and showed that such models perform below chance level on embedded dependencies within nested constructions -- a prototypical example of recursion in natural language. Here, we stud...
Preprint
Ferrigno et al. [2020] introduced an ingenious task to investigate recursion in human and non-human primates. American adults, Tsimane adults, and 3-5 year-old children successfully performed the task. Macaque monkeys required additional training, but two out of three eventually showed good generalization and scored above many Tsimane and child par...
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Theories of predictive coding hypothesize that cortical networks learn internal models of environmental regularities to generate expectations that are constantly compared with sensory inputs. The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is thought to be critical for predictive coding. Here, we show how prefrontal neuronal ensembles encode a detailed internal model...
Article
The ability to detect the abstract pattern underlying a temporal sequence of events is crucial to many human activities, including language and mathematics, but its cortical correlates remain poorly understood. It is also unclear whether repeated exposure to the same sequence of sensory stimuli is sufficient to induce the encoding of an abstract am...
Preprint
Full-text available
Exponential growth is frequently underestimated, an error that can have a heavy social cost in the context of epidemics. To clarify its origins, we measured the human capacity to extrapolate linear and exponential trends in scatterplots. Four factors were manipulated: the function underlying the data (linear or exponential), the response modality (...
Preprint
Full-text available
We read with interest the synthesis by Raccah and colleagues on the perturbations of consciousexperience elicited by intracranial electrical stimulation (iES) of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) in awakeneurosurgical patients. The main outcome of the review is the report that iES of the PFC shows fewercausal changes of conscious experience than iES of p...
Article
How does the human brain store sequences of spatial locations? We propose that each sequence is internally compressed using an abstract, language-like code that captures its numerical and geometrical regularities. We exposed participants to spatial sequences of fixed length but variable regularity while their brain activity was recorded using magne...
Article
Despite the widespread use of graphs, little is known about how fast and how accurately we can extract information from them. Through a series of four behavioral experiments, we characterized human performance in "mental regression", i.e. the perception of statistical trends from scatterplots. When presented with a noisy scatterplot, even as briefl...
Preprint
Full-text available
Reading words aloud is a foundational aspect of the acquisition of literacy. The rapid rate at which multiple distributed neural substrates are engaged in this process can only be probed via techniques with high spatiotemporal resolution. We used direct intracranial recordings in a large cohort to create a holistic yet fine-grained map of word proc...
Article
Recursive processing in sentence comprehension is considered a hallmark of human linguistic abilities. However, its underlying neural mechanisms remain largely unknown. We studied whether a modern artificial neural network trained with "deep learning" methods mimics a central aspect of human sentence processing, namely the storing of grammatical nu...
Preprint
Numeracy is of critical importance for scholastic success and modern-day living, but the precise mechanisms that drive its development are poorly understood. Here we used novel experimental training methods to begin to investigate the role of symbols in the development of numeracy in preschool-aged children. We assigned pre-school children in the U...
Article
Full-text available
Geometrical intuitions spontaneously drive visuo-spatial reasoning in human adults, children and animals. Is their emergence intrinsically linked to visual experience, or does it reflect a core property of cognition shared across sensory modalities? To address this question, we tested the sensitivity of blind-from-birth adults to geometrical-invari...
Article
Significance Determining the cognitive differences between human and nonhuman primates is a central goal of cognitive neuroscience. We show that intuitions of geometry are present in humans but absent in baboons. A simple intruder task in which subjects must find which of six geometric shapes is different reveals an effect of geometric regularity i...
Preprint
The Kalulu software is a tablet-based suite of phonics and reading-related lessons and minigames. In a previous intervention with a previous version of the software in 1st grade students, fluency and comprehension were boosted, but only when used in concert with reading instruction at the start of the year. Here, we asked whether a similar interven...
Preprint
Full-text available
Although words and faces activate neighboring regions in the fusiform gyrus, we lack an understanding of how this category selectivity emerges during development. To investigate the organization of reading and face circuits at the earliest stage of reading acquisition, we measured the fMRI responses to words, faces, houses, and checkerboards in thr...
Article
Full-text available
Reading is a rapid, distributed process that engages multiple components of the ventral visual stream. To understand the neural constituents and their interactions that allow us to identify written words, we performed direct intra-cranial recordings in a large cohort of humans. This allowed us to isolate the spatiotemporal dynamics of visual word r...
Preprint
Full-text available
The visual word form area (VWFA) is a region of human inferotemporal cortex that emerges at a fixed location in occipitotemporal cortex during reading acquisition, and systematically responds to written words in literate individuals. According to the neuronal recycling hypothesis, this region arises through the repurposing, for letter recognition,...
Chapter
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The controversial question of whether machines may ever be conscious must be based on a careful consideration of how consciousness arises in the only physical system that undoubtedly possesses it: the human brain. We suggest that the word “consciousness” conflates two different types of information-processing computations in the brain: the selectio...
Article
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The classic cocktail party effect suggests that some, but probably not all levels of language processing can proceed without attention. We used whole-brain functional MRI to investigate how modality-specific and modality-independent language areas are modulated by the withdrawal of attention to another sensory modality (e.g. attending to vision dur...
Article
Full-text available
Working memory capacity can be improved by recoding the memorized information in a condensed form. Here, we tested the theory that human adults encode binary sequences of stimuli in memory using an abstract internal language and a recursive compression algorithm. The theory predicts that the psychological complexity of a given sequence should be pr...
Preprint
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One of the fundamental principles of contemporary linguistics states that language processing requires the ability to extract recursively nested tree structures. However, it remains unclear whether and how this code could be implemented in neural circuits. Recent advances in Recurrent Neural Networks (RNNs), which achieve near-human performance in...
Preprint
Full-text available
Despite the widespread use of graphs, little is known about how fast and how accurately we can extract information from them. Through a series of four behavioral experiments, we characterized human performance in “mental regression”, i.e. the perception of statistical trends from scatterplots. When presented with a noisy scatterplot, even as briefl...
Article
Full-text available
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has opened the possibility to investigate how brain activity is modulated by behavior. Most studies so far are bound to one single task, in which functional responses to a handful of contrasts are analyzed and reported as a group average brain map. Contrariwise, recent data‐collection efforts have starte...
Article
According to global neuronal workspace (GNW) theory, conscious access relies on long-distance cerebral connectivity to allow a global neuronal ignition coding for conscious content. In patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, both alterations in cerebral connectivity and an increased threshold for conscious perception have been reported. T...
Article
Full-text available
Enumeration of a dot array is faster and easier if the items form recognizable subgroups. This phenomenon, which has been termed groupitizing, appears in children after one year of formal education and correlates with arithmetic abilities. We formulated and tested the hypothesis that groupitizing reflects an ability to sidestep counting by using ar...
Article
Converting a multi-digit number to quantity requires processing not only the digits but also the number's decimal structure, thus raising several issues. First, are all the digits processed in parallel, or serially from left to right? Second, given that the same digit at different places can represent different quantities (e.g., “2” can mean 2, 20,...
Article
Full-text available
Are the brain mechanisms of reading acquisition similar across writing systems? And do similar brain anomalies underlie reading difficulties in alphabetic and ideographic reading systems? In a cross-cultural paradigm, we measured the fMRI responses to words, faces and houses in 96 Chinese and French 10-year-old children, half of whom were strugglin...
Article
Full-text available
We present an extension of the Individual Brain Charting dataset –a high spatial-resolution, multi-task, functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging dataset, intended to support the investigation on the functional principles governing cognition in the human brain. The concomitant data acquisition from the same 12 participants, in the same environment, al...
Article
Full-text available
The ability to recognize written letter strings is foundational to human reading, but the underlying neuronal mechanisms remain largely unknown. Recent behavioral research in baboons suggests that non-human primates may provide an opportunity to investigate this question. We recorded the activity of hundreds of neurons in V4 and the inferior tempor...
Preprint
Among primates, humans are special in their ability to create and manipulate highly elaborate structures of language, mathematics or music. Here, we show that the singularity of humans is already evident in a much simpler domain: the visual perception of regular geometric shapes. In elementary perceptual tasks, regardless of age, education and cult...
Preprint
Full-text available
Recursive processing in sentence comprehension is considered a hallmark of human linguistic abilities. However, its underlying neural mechanisms remain largely unknown. We studied whether a recurrent neural network with Long Short-Term Memory units can mimic a central aspect of human sentence processing, namely the handling of long-distance agreeme...
Preprint
Converting a multi-digit number to quantity requires processing not only the digits but also the number’s decimal structure, thus raising several issues. First, are all the digits processed in parallel, or serially from left to right? Second, given that the same digit, at different places, can represent different quantities (e.g., “2” can mean 2, 2...
Preprint
Several theories of decision making assume that optimal decisions are reached by computing a prior distribution over possible responses, and then updating it according to the evidence received. We show how this prior replacement, with its two processing stages, can be captured with a simple behavioral method: tracking the finger movement as partici...
Article
Full-text available
Assessing residual consciousness and cognitive abilities in unresponsive patients is a major clinical concern and a challenge for cognitive neuroscience. Although neuroimaging studies have demonstrated a potential for informing diagnosis and prognosis in unresponsive patients, these methods involve sophisticated brain imaging technologies, which li...
Article
This study examined the brain areas involved in combining words into larger units when there are few or no morphosyntactic cues. We manipulated constituent length in word strings of the same length under two conditions: Mandarin sentence, which had sparse morphosyntactic cues, and nominal phrase that had no morphosyntactic cues (e.g., [[honey musta...
Article
Full-text available
Language processing involves the ability to master supra-regular grammars, that go beyond the level of complexity of regular grammars. This ability has been hypothesized to be a uniquely human capacity. Our study probed baboons’ capacity to learn two supra-regular grammars of different levels of complexity: a context-free grammar generating sequenc...
Article
Full-text available
Sentence comprehension requires inferring, from a sequence of words, the structure of syntactic relationships that bind these words into a semantic representation. Our limited ability to build some specific syntactic structures, such as nested center-embedded clauses (e.g., “The dog that the cat that the mouse bit chased ran away”), suggests a stri...
Article
Full-text available
Learning to read leads to functional and structural changes in cortical brain areas related to vision and language. Previous evidence suggests that the Visual Word Form Area (VWFA), a region devoted to the recognition of letter strings in literate persons, acts as an interface between both systems. While different studies have performed univariate...
Article
We review the central tenets and neuroanatomical basis of the global neuronal workspace (GNW) hypothesis, which attempts to account for the main scientific observations regarding the elementary mechanisms of conscious processing in the human brain. The GNW hypothesis proposes that, in the conscious state, a non-linear network ignition associated wi...
Preprint
Full-text available
Reading is a rapid, distributed process that engages multiple components of the ventral visual stream. However, the neural constituents and their interactions that allow us to identify written words are not well understood. Using direct intracranial recordings in a large cohort of humans, we comprehensively isolated the spatiotemporal dynamics of v...
Article
Nonhuman primate neuroimaging is on the cusp of a transformation, much in the same way its human counterpart was in 2010, when the Human Connectome Project was launched to accelerate progress. Inspired by an open data-sharing initiative, the global community recently met and, in this article, breaks through obstacles to define its ambitions.
Preprint
Full-text available
Detecting and learning temporal regularities is essential to accurately predict the future. Past research indicates that humans are sensitive to two types of sequential regularities: deterministic rules, which afford sure predictions, and statistical biases, which govern the probabilities of individual items and their transitions. How does the huma...
Preprint
Full-text available
Enumeration of a dot array is faster and easier if the items form recognizable subgroups. This phenomenon, which has been termed groupitizing, appears in children after one year of formal education and correlates with arithmetic abilities. We formulated and tested the hypothesis that groupitizing reflects an ability to sidestep counting by using ar...
Preprint
The capacity to store information in working memory strongly depends upon the ability to recode the information in a compressed form. Here, we tested the theory that human adults encode binary sequences of stimuli in memory using a recursive compression algorithm akin to a “language of thought”, and capable of capturing nested patterns of repetitio...
Preprint
Full-text available
How do humans encode spatial and sequential information in working memory? We tested the hypothesis that participants do not merely store each consecutive location in a distinct memory slot, but instead compress the whole sequence using an abstract language-like code that captures geometrical regularities at multiple nested levels. We exposed parti...
Article
Tablets and computers offer opportunities for learning, but their potential is only as great as the quality of the software they propose. Educational games must not only provide an engaging design, but also be based on principles from cognitive neuroscience and education research, and be evaluated in large-scale classroom tests. Here, we describe E...
Article
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The simultaneous multi-slice EPI (SMS-EPI, a.k.a. MB-EPI) sequence has met immense popularity recently in functional neuroimaging. A still less common alternative is the use of 3D-EPI, which offers similar acceleration capabilities. The aim of this work was to compare the SMS-EPI and the 3D-EPI sequences in terms of sampling strategies for the dete...
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To determine whether the neural anomalies underlying developmental dyslexia are universal across languages or influenced by the writing system, we tested 10-year-old Chinese and French children, with or without dyslexia, in a cross-cultural fMRI paradigm. We compared their brain responses to words written in their known script, faces and houses whi...
Article
A central goal in cognitive science is to parse the series of processing stages underlying a cognitive task. A powerful yet simple behavioral method that can resolve this problem is finger trajectory tracking: by continuously tracking the finger position and speed as a participant chooses a response, and by analyzing which stimulus features affect...