Neuroimaging Evidence for 2 Types of Plasticity in Association with Visual Perceptual Learning

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Visual perceptual learning (VPL) is long-term performance improvement as a result of perceptual experience. It is unclear whether VPL is associated with refinement in representations of the trained feature (feature-based plasticity), improvement in processing of the trained task (task-based plasticity), or both. Here, we provide empirical evidence that VPL of motion detection is associated with both types of plasticity which occur predominantly in different brain areas. Before and after training on a motion detection task, subjects' neural responses to the trained motion stimuli were measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging. In V3A, significant response changes after training were observed specifically to the trained motion stimulus but independently of whether subjects performed the trained task. This suggests that the response changes in V3A represent feature-based plasticity in VPL of motion detection. In V1 and the intraparietal sulcus, significant response changes were found only when subjects performed the trained task on the trained motion stimulus. This suggests that the response changes in these areas reflect task-based plasticity. These results collectively suggest that VPL of motion detection is associated with the 2 types of plasticity, which occur in different areas and therefore have separate mechanisms at least to some degree.

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