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Farah Martens, Christine van Vliet, Hans Op de Beeck; The distributed neural basis of visual expertise in different expert groups. Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):1093. doi: 10.1167/16.12.1093.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Despite earlier studies and intensive debate, the neural basis of visual learning in the context of real-world expertise is still unclear. Different hypotheses have been proposed, including (i) the expertise hypothesis, focusing on the fusiform face area (FFA) as the center of all expertise-related neural changes; (ii) the informativeness hypothesis, predicting that the extent to which a region's sensitivity is altered by expertise depends on its informativeness for the specific domain of expertise; and (iii) the interactive view, predicting widespread changes within and beyond the visual system. To compare domains of expertise for which different brain regions are informative, we included 20 ornithologists (living objects of expertise), 17 mineralogists (experts in nonliving objects) and 20 control participants in an fMRI experiment. Participants were, among others, presented with images of birds and minerals. Multi-voxel pattern analyses showed significantly distinct neural representations of objects of expertise between the three groups of participants. These distinctions were present in low level and high level visual brain regions, as well as across the whole brain, indicating very widespread effects of expertise. By applying univariate region of interest analyses we demonstrated that ornithologists showed significantly increased activation for birds in FFA, parahippocampal place area (PPA), lateral occipital complex (LOC) and 'living' and 'nonliving' regions. So expertise effects were found in as well as beyond informative brain regions. By contrast, no significant expertise effects were found for mineralogists in any of these functionally defined regions, showing that in mineralogists the distributed changes are not associated with strong local effects. These results suggest very distributed effects of expertise in both expert groups, which is more in line with the interactive view than with the expertise and informativeness hypotheses.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016
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