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PLOS Biology  2012 

The Effect of Learning on the Function of Monkey Extrastriate Visual Cortex

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0020044

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Abstract:

One of the most remarkable capabilities of the adult brain is its ability to learn and continuously adapt to an ever-changing environment. While many studies have documented how learning improves the perception and identification of visual stimuli, relatively little is known about how it modifies the underlying neural mechanisms. We trained monkeys to identify natural images that were degraded by interpolation with visual noise. We found that learning led to an improvement in monkeys' ability to identify these indeterminate visual stimuli. We link this behavioral improvement to a learning-dependent increase in the amount of information communicated by V4 neurons. This increase was mediated by a specific enhancement in neural activity. Our results reveal a mechanism by which learning increases the amount of information that V4 neurons are able to extract from the visual environment. This suggests that V4 plays a key role in resolving indeterminate visual inputs by coordinated interaction between bottom-up and top-down processing streams.

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