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J Vis. 2008 Apr 24;8(4):25.1-11. doi: 10.1167/8.4.25.

Attention-based perceptual learning increases binocular rivalry suppression of irrelevant visual features.

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Helmholtz Institute, Division of Experimental Psychology, Universiteit Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Perceptual learning refers to an improvement on a perceptual task after repeated exposure to a stimulus. It has been shown that attention can play an important role in perceptual learning. Recently, it has been suggested that training can lead to increased suppression of information that is continuously irrelevant, and that this attention-based suppression plays an important role in more efficient noise exclusion. Here we investigate this claim. Observers performed a visual speed-discrimination task for 5 consecutive days. After training, sensitivity to motion directions that were relevant, irrelevant, or neutral toward the training task was assessed by measuring motion coherence thresholds. In addition, perceptual dominance during binocular rivalry was assessed for combinations of the three motion directions. The results showed that sensitivity to the task-relevant feature increased due to training. That is, motion coherence thresholds were selectively lowered for the task-relevant feature. Interestingly, the feature that was task-irrelevant during training was more strongly suppressed during binocular rivalry: The mean perceptual dominance of this feature was selectively decreased. Our results show that task-irrelevant information that potentially interferes with the primary task during learning gets more strongly suppressed. Furthermore, our results add new evidence in support of the claim that mechanisms involved in visual attention and binocular rivalry overlap.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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