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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Mar 8;102(10):3881-5. Epub 2005 Feb 24.

The time course and specificity of perceptual deterioration.

Author information

1
The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, SNL-B, 10010 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037-1099, USA. smednick@salk.edu

Abstract

Repeated within-day testing on a texture discrimination task leads to retinotopically specific decreases in performance. Although perceptual learning has been shown to be highly specific to the retinotopic location and characteristics of the trained stimulus, the specificity of perceptual deterioration has not been studied. We investigated the similarities between learning and deterioration by examining whether deterioration transfers to new distractor or target orientations or to the untrained eye. Participants performed a texture discrimination task in three one-hour sessions. We tested the specificity of deterioration in the final session by switching either the orientation of the background or the target elements by 90 degrees. We found that performance deteriorated steadily both within and across the first two sessions and was specific to the target but not the distractor orientation. In a separate experiment, we found that deterioration transferred to the untrained eye. Changes in performance were independent of reported sleepiness and awareness of stimulus changes, arguing against the possibility that perceptual deterioration is due to general fatigue. Rather, we hypothesize that perceptual deterioration may be caused by changes in the ability for attention to selectively enhance the responses of relatively low-level orientation-selective sensory neurons, possibly within the primary visual cortex. Further, the differences in specificity profiles between learning and deterioration suggest separate underlying mechanisms that occur within the same cortical area.

PMID:
15731350
PMCID:
PMC553291
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.0407866102
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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