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Curr Biol. 2009 Aug 11;19(15):1278-82. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.06.011. Epub 2009 Jul 2.

Location-specific cortical activation changes during sleep after training for perceptual learning.

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  • 1Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, 149 13th Street, Charlestown, MA 02129, USA.


Visual perceptual learning is defined as performance enhancement on a sensory task and is distinguished from other types of learning and memory in that it is highly specific for location of the trained stimulus. The location specificity has been shown to be paralleled by enhancement in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) signal in the trained region of V1 after visual training. Although recently the role of sleep in strengthening visual perceptual learning has attracted much attention, its underlying neural mechanism has yet to be clarified. Here, for the first time, fMRI measurement of human V1 activation was conducted concurrently with a polysomnogram during sleep with and without preceding training for visual perceptual learning. As a result of predetermined region-of-interest analysis of V1, activation enhancement during non-rapid-eye-movement sleep after training was observed specifically in the trained region of V1. Furthermore, improvement of task performance measured subsequently to the post-training sleep session was significantly correlated with the amount of the trained-region-specific fMRI activation in V1 during sleep. These results suggest that as far as V1 is concerned, only the trained region is involved in improving task performance after sleep.

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