Within-quadrant position and orientation specificity after extensive orientation discrimination learning is related to performance gains during late learning

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Abstract

The last decade has seen the emergence of new views about the mechanisms underlying specificity (or, conversely, generalization) of visual skill learning. Here, we trained participants at orientation discrimination paradigm at a peripheral position to induce position and orientation specificity and to test its underlying mechanisms. Specifically, we aimed to test whether the within-quadrant spatial gradient of generalization is determined by cortical magnification, which would show that retinotopic plasticity contributes to learning and specificity. Additionally, we aimed to test whether late parts of the learning relate differently to specificity compared to early parts. This is relevant in the context of double training papers, which suggest that rule-based mechanisms of specificity in fast, early learning also would apply to late, slower learning. Our data showed partial but significant position and orientation specificity within quadrants. Interestingly, specificity was greatest for those participants who had continued to show threshold decreases during the last five sessions of training (late, asymptotic learning). Performance gains during early learning were less related to specificity. A trend for skill to spread over larger distances towards periphery than towards central vision suggested contributions to transfer of early visual areas showing cortical magnification of central vision. Control experiments however did not support this hypothesis. In summary, our study demonstrates significant specificity after extensive perceptual learning, and indicates that asymptotic learning recruits specific mechanisms that promote specificity, and that may not be recruited yet in early parts of the learning. The contributions of different mechanisms to early and late learning suggests that following these different learning periods, generalization relies on different principles and is subjected to different limits.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0201520
Pages (from-to)e0201520
Number of pages37
JournalPLOS ONE
Volume13
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sep 2018

Keywords

  • PRIMARY VISUAL-CORTEX
  • POP-OUT DETECTION
  • TEXTURE-DISCRIMINATION
  • REVERSE HIERARCHIES
  • CORTICAL PLASTICITY
  • SUPERIOR COLLICULUS
  • ATTENTIONAL CONTROL
  • PREFRONTAL CORTEX
  • SPATIAL ATTENTION
  • BASAL GANGLIA

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