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Sara C. Mednick, Denise J. Cai, Cory Rieth, Jennifer Kanady, Todd S. Horowitz; Separating specific from general learning in a napping paradigm on Multiple Object Tracking and Rotary Pursuit tasks. Journal of Vision 2008;8(6):500. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/8.6.500.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
INTRODUCTION: Some perceptual learning studies report that improvement is stimulus-specific, while others argue for generalized learning. We investigate this discrepancy by examining tasks that have opportunities for both types of learning (stimulus-specific and general) in a napping paradigm. We utilized the Multiple Object Tracking (MOT) task (ala Yantis 1992), which examined whether perceptual grouping via speed cues (stimulus-specific) influenced attentional object tracking (general). In addition, we utilized a Rotary Pursuit Task (ROT), which examined whether improvement was due to pattern extraction (stimulus-specific) or visuomotor improvement (general). METHODS: Subjects were tested twice in one day (9AM and 5PM). Subjects either had a polysomnographically recorded nap or quiet rest (listening to relaxing music on headphones) between 1–3PM. At the start of session one, a speed discrimination threshold at 66% correct was obtained for each subject and applied to the speed of objects in MOT. Four MOT conditions were tested: all high velocity, all low velocity, target high velocity/nontarget low velocity, and target low velocity/nontarget high velocity. If learning on the MOT was stimulus-specific, nappers would show greater learning for the segregated-speed conditions than the uniform-speed conditions. In the ROT, subjects used a mouse to track a red dot moving on the computer screen. The dot trajectory was created by adding two horizontal and one vertical sine wave. In session one, two conditions were tested: a patterned and a random trajectory. In session two, four conditions were tested: patterned, patterned rotated by 90°, random, and random rotated by 90°. If learning on the ROT was stimulus-specific, nappers would only show improvement for the patterned conditions. RESULTS: In MOT, subjects showed general improvement and no preference for segregated conditions. In ROT, learning is shown for patterned, but not for random conditions. We hypothesize that the specificity of learning is task-dependent.
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