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Kelly N. Byrne, Elizabeth A. McDevitt, Summer L. Sheremata, Matthew W. Peters, Sara C. Mednick, Michael A. Silver; Transient cholinergic enhancement does not significantly affect either the magnitude or selectivity of perceptual learning of visual texture discrimination. Journal of Vision 2020;20(6):5. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.6.5.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Perceptual learning (PL), often characterized by improvements in perceptual performance with training that are specific to the stimulus conditions used during training, exemplifies experience-dependent cortical plasticity. An improved understanding of how neuromodulatory systems shape PL promises to provide new insights into the mechanisms of plasticity, and by extension how PL can be generated and applied most efficiently. Previous studies have reported enhanced PL in human subjects following administration of drugs that increase signaling through acetylcholine (ACh) receptors, and physiological evidence indicates that ACh sharpens neuronal selectivity, suggesting that this neuromodulator supports PL and its stimulus specificity. Here we explored the effects of enhancing endogenous cholinergic signaling during PL of a visual texture discrimination task. We found that training on this task in the lower visual field yielded significant behavioral improvement at the trained location. However, a single dose of the cholinesterase inhibitor donepezil, administered before training, did not significantly impact either the magnitude or the location specificity of texture discrimination learning compared with placebo. We discuss potential explanations for discrepant findings in the literature regarding the role of ACh in visual PL, including possible differences in plasticity mechanisms in the dorsal and ventral cortical processing streams.
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