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Sci Rep. 2013;3:1048. doi: 10.1038/srep01048. Epub 2013 Jan 10.

Controlled variations in stimulus similarity during learning determine visual discrimination capacity in freely moving mice.

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Department of Molecular Neurobiology Max-Planck-Institute for Medical Research, Heidelberg, Germany.


The mouse is receiving growing interest as a model organism for studying visual perception. However, little is known about how discrimination and learning interact to produce visual conditioned responses. Here, we adapted a two-alternative forced-choice visual discrimination task for mice and examined how training with equiprobable stimuli of varying similarity influenced conditioned response and discrimination performance as a function of learning. Our results indicate that the slope of the gradients in similarity during training determined the learning rate, the maximum performance and the threshold for successful discrimination. Moreover, the learning process obeyed an inverse relationship between discrimination performance and discriminative resolution, implying that sensitivity within a similarity range cannot be improved without sacrificing performance in another. Our study demonstrates how the interplay between discrimination and learning controls visual discrimination capacity and introduces a new training protocol with quantitative measures to study perceptual learning and visually-guided behavior in freely moving mice.

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