Learning to see: experience and attention in primary visual cortex

Nat Neurosci. 2001 May;4(5):519-25. doi: 10.1038/87470.


The response properties of neurons in primary sensory cortices remain malleable throughout life. The existence of such plasticity, and the characteristics of a form of implicit learning known as perceptual learning, suggest that changes in primary sensory cortex may mediate learning. We explored whether modification of the functional properties of primary visual cortex (V1) accompanies perceptual learning. Basic receptive field properties, such as location, size and orientation selectivity, were unaffected by perceptual training, and visual topography (as measured by magnification factor) was indistinguishable between trained and untrained animals. On the other hand, the influence of contextual stimuli placed outside the receptive field showed a change consistent with the trained discrimination. Furthermore, this property showed task dependence, only being manifest when the animal was performing the trained discrimination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Discrimination Learning
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Electrophysiology
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Orientation / physiology
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Fields / physiology