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Chang-Bing Huang, Zhong-Lin Lu, Barbara Dosher; Co-learning analysis of two perceptual learning tasks with identical input stimuli supports the reweighting hypothesis. Journal of Vision 2008;8(6):1123. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/8.6.1123.
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Perceptual learning, even when it exhibits significant specificity to basic stimulus features such as retinal location or spatial frequency, may be accomplished either through enhancement of early sensory representations or through selective re-weighting of connections from the sensory representations to specific responses, or both. For most of the experiments in the literature (but see Ahissar & Hochstein, 1996; Fahle, 1997; Fahle & Morgan, 1996; Wilson, 1986), the two forms of plasticity make similar predictions (Petrov, Dosher & Lu, 2005). The strongest test of the two hypotheses must use training and transfer tasks that rely on the same sensory representation with different task-dependent decision structures. If training changes representations, transfer (or interference) must occur since the (changed) representational coding is common. If instead training re-weights a separate set of task connections to decision, then performance in the two tasks may still be independent. Here, we performed a co-learning analysis of two perceptual learning tasks based on identical input stimuli, following a very interesting study of Fahle and Morgan (1996) who used nearly identical input stimuli (a three dot pattern) in training bisection and vernier tasks. Two important modifications were made: (1) Identical input stimuli were used in the two tasks, and (2) Each task is trained alternately (800 trials) in turn, with multiple phases of testing on each task. The second modification is essential for distinguishing between independent co-learning and competitive (push-pull) co-learning. Two groups of subjects with counter-balanced order of training participated in the experiments. We found significant and independent learning of the two tasks. The pattern of result is consistent with the reweighting hypothesis of perceptual learning.
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