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Neuroimage. 2016 Feb 15;127:74-85. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.11.063. Epub 2015 Dec 4.

How learning might strengthen existing visual object representations in human object-selective cortex.

Author information

1
Laboratory of Biological Psychology, University of Leuven (KU Leuven), Belgium; Laboratory of Experimental Psychology, University of Leuven (KU Leuven), Belgium.
2
Laboratory of Biological Psychology, University of Leuven (KU Leuven), Belgium.
3
Laboratory of Experimental Psychology, University of Leuven (KU Leuven), Belgium.
4
Laboratory of Biological Psychology, University of Leuven (KU Leuven), Belgium. Electronic address: Hans.OpdeBeeck@ppw.kuleuven.be.

Abstract

Visual object perception is an important function in primates which can be fine-tuned by experience, even in adults. Which factors determine the regions and the neurons that are modified by learning is still unclear. Recently, it was proposed that the exact cortical focus and distribution of learning effects might depend upon the pre-learning mapping of relevant functional properties and how this mapping determines the informativeness of neural units for the stimuli and the task to be learned. From this hypothesis we would expect that visual experience would strengthen the pre-learning distributed functional map of the relevant distinctive object properties. Here we present a first test of this prediction in twelve human subjects who were trained in object categorization and differentiation, preceded and followed by a functional magnetic resonance imaging session. Specifically, training increased the distributed multi-voxel pattern information for trained object distinctions in object-selective cortex, resulting in a generalization from pre-training multi-voxel activity patterns to after-training activity patterns. Simulations show that the increased selectivity combined with the inter-session generalization is consistent with a training-induced strengthening of a pre-existing selectivity map. No training-related neural changes were detected in other regions. In sum, training to categorize or individuate objects strengthened pre-existing representations in human object-selective cortex, providing a first indication that the neuroanatomical distribution of learning effects depends upon the pre-learning mapping of visual object properties.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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