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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 Sep 12;114(37):9972-9977. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1712305114. Epub 2017 Aug 28.

Top-down modulation of sensory cortex gates perceptual learning.

Caras ML1, Sanes DH2,3,4,5.

Author information

1
Center for Neural Science, New York University, New York, NY 10003; caras@nyu.edu.
2
Center for Neural Science, New York University, New York, NY 10003.
3
Department of Psychology, New York University, New York, NY 10003.
4
Department of Biology, New York University, New York, NY 10003.
5
Neuroscience Institute, New York University Langone Medical Center, New York, NY 10016.

Abstract

Practice sharpens our perceptual judgments, a process known as perceptual learning. Although several brain regions and neural mechanisms have been proposed to support perceptual learning, formal tests of causality are lacking. Furthermore, the temporal relationship between neural and behavioral plasticity remains uncertain. To address these issues, we recorded the activity of auditory cortical neurons as gerbils trained on a sound detection task. Training led to improvements in cortical and behavioral sensitivity that were closely matched in terms of magnitude and time course. Surprisingly, the degree of neural improvement was behaviorally gated. During task performance, cortical improvements were large and predicted behavioral outcomes. In contrast, during nontask listening sessions, cortical improvements were weak and uncorrelated with perceptual performance. Targeted reduction of auditory cortical activity during training diminished perceptual learning while leaving psychometric performance largely unaffected. Collectively, our findings suggest that training facilitates perceptual learning by strengthening both bottom-up sensory encoding and top-down modulation of auditory cortex.

KEYWORDS:

auditory; cortex; learning; plasticity; top-down

PMID:
28847938
PMCID:
PMC5604044
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.1712305114
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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