Task-Irrelevant Perceptual Learning Specific to the Contrast Polarity of Motion Stimuli
Pilly, Praveen K.
Seitz, Aaron R.
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Studies of perceptual learning have focused on aspects of learning that are related to early stages of sensory processing. However, conclusions that perceptual learning results in low-level sensory plasticity are of great controversy, largely because such learning can often be attributed to plasticity in later stages of sensory processing or in the decision processes. To address this controversy, we developed a novel random dot motion (RDM) stimulus to target motion cells selective to contrast polarity, by ensuring the motion direction information arises only from signal dot onsets and not their offsets, and used these stimuli in conjunction with the paradigm of task-irrelevant perceptual learning (TIPL). In TIPL, learning is achieved in response to a stimulus by subliminally pairing that stimulus with the targets of an unrelated training task. In this manner, we are able to probe learning for an aspect of motion processing thought to be a function of directional V1 simple cells with a learning procedure that dissociates the learned stimulus from the decision processes relevant to the training task. Our results show learning for the exposed contrast polarity and that this learning does not transfer to the unexposed contrast polarity. These results suggest that TIPL for motion stimuli may occur at the stage of directional V1 simple cells.