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Using brain scans, researchers find evidence for a two-stage model of human perceptual learning

pes. They found again that cars selectively activated an area in lateral occipital cortex, but that now neurons in that area appeared to be finely tuned to small car shape differences.

In a third scan, the investigators finally asked subjects to categorize the same car images shown in the other scans. This time, two areas of the brain, the now familiar area in lateral occipital cortex as well as an area in lateral prefrontal cortex, were found to be active when processing the images. "The lateral prefrontal cortex is known to be the center of cognitive control," Riesenhuber said. "That is where the brain connects physical input to an action or response, deciding what task to do and how to respond to a stimulus."

In essence, fMRI was showing that both the higher and lower brain regions had worked together to learn a task, he said.

These findings might be helpful in understanding disorders that involve differences in the interaction of bottom-up and top-down information in the brain, such as autism or schizophrenia, Riesenhuber said. It also suggests how the learning of visual skills can be enhanced by directly monitoring neuronal activity. "This could be useful, for instance, to speed up learning to detect targets in unfamiliar imaging modalities, such as baggage X rays or radar images," he said.


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Source:Georgetown University Medical Center


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