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Neuroimage. 1999 Jan;9(1):46-62.

Neuronal mechanisms of perceptual learning: changes in human brain activity with training in orientation discrimination.

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Laboratory of Neurophysiology, U.C.L., Brussels, Belgium.


Using 15O-water 3D positron emission tomography, regional cerebral blood flow was measured twice in six human subjects: before and after extensive training in orientation discrimination. In each session subjects performed two orientation discrimination tasks, during which they discriminated the orientation of a grating at either the trained or untrained reference orientation, and a control task, during which they detected a randomly textured pattern. By comparing the discrimination to the detection tasks, we observed a main effect of task bilaterally in the posterior occipital cortex, extending into the left posterior fusiform gyrus and the right inferior occipital gyrus, bilaterally in the intraparietal sulcus, as well as in the cerebellum, thalamus, and brainstem. When we compared the activation pattern before and after the training period, all the changes observed were activity decreases. The nonspecific changes, which were not related to the orientation used during the training, were situated in the cerebellum and bilaterally in the extrastriate visual cortex. The orientation-specific changes, on the other hand, were restricted to the striate and extrastriate visual cortex, more precisely the right calcarine sulcus, the left lingual gyrus, the left middle occipital, and the right inferior occipital gyrus. These findings confirm our hypothesis concerning the existence of learning related changes at early levels of visual processing in human adults and suggest that mechanisms resulting in neuronal activity decreases might be involved in the present kind of learning.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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