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J Neurosci. 2004 Feb 18;24(7):1617-26.

The effect of perceptual learning on neuronal responses in monkey visual area V4.

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Baylor College of Medicine and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


Previous studies have shown that perceptual learning can substantially alter the response properties of neurons in the primary somatosensory and auditory cortices. Although psychophysical studies suggest that perceptual learning induces similar changes in primary visual cortex (V1), studies that have measured the response properties of individual neurons have failed to find effects of the size described for the other sensory systems. We have examined the effect of learning on neuronal response properties in a visual area that lies at a later stage of cortical processing, area V4. Adult macaque monkeys were trained extensively on orientation discrimination at a specific retinal location using a narrow range of orientations. During the course of training, the subjects achieved substantial improvement in orientation discrimination that was primarily restricted to the trained location. After training, neurons in V4 with receptive fields overlapping the trained location had stronger responses and narrower orientation tuning curves than neurons with receptive fields in the opposite, untrained hemifield. The changes were most prominent for neurons that preferred orientations close to the trained range of orientations. These results provide the first demonstration of perceptual learning modifying basic neuronal response properties at an intermediate level of visual cortex and give insights into the distribution of plasticity across adult visual cortex.

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