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Nature. 1997 Oct 9;389(6651):596-9.

How the brain learns to see objects and faces in an impoverished context.

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Wellcome Department of Cognitive Neurology, Institute of Neurology, London, UK.


A degraded image of an object or face, which appears meaningless when seen for the first time, is easily recognizable after viewing an undegraded version of the same image. The neural mechanisms by which this form of rapid perceptual learning facilitates perception are not well understood. Psychological theory suggests the involvement of systems for processing stimulus attributes, spatial attention and feature binding, as well as those involved in visual imagery. Here we investigate where and how this rapid perceptual learning is expressed in the human brain by using functional neuroimaging to measure brain activity during exposure to degraded images before and after exposure to the corresponding undegraded versions. Perceptual learning of faces or objects enhanced the activity of inferior temporal regions known to be involved in face and object recognition respectively. In addition, both face and object learning led to increased activity in medial and lateral parietal regions that have been implicated in attention and visual imagery. We observed a strong coupling between the temporal face area and the medial parietal cortex when, and only when, faces were perceived. This suggests that perceptual learning involves direct interactions between areas involved in face recognition and those involved in spatial attention, feature binding and memory recall.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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