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J Neurophysiol. 1997 Dec;78(6):2889-94.

Perceptual learning of spatial localization: specificity for orientation, position, and context.

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  • 1Department of Neurobiology, The Rockefeller University, New York, New York 10021, USA.


Discrimination of simple visual attributes can improve significantly with practice. We have trained human observers to perform peripherally presented tasks involving the localization of short line segments and examined the specificity of the learning for the visual location, orientation, and geometric arrangement of the trained stimulus. Several weeks of training resulted in dramatic threshold reductions. The learning was specific for the orientation and location of the trained stimulus, indicating the involvement of the earliest cortical stages in the visual pathway where the orientation and location of stimuli are mapped with highest resolution. Furthermore, improvement was also specific for both the configuration of the trained stimulus and the attribute of the stimulus that was under scrutiny during training. This degree of specificity suggests that the learning cannot be achieved by cortical recruitment alone, as proposed in current models, but is likely to involve a refinement of lateral interactions within the cortex and possibly a gating of lower level changes by attentional mechanisms.

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