Perceptual learning improves efficiency by re-tuning the decision 'template' for position discrimination

Nat Neurosci. 2004 Feb;7(2):178-83. doi: 10.1038/nn1183. Epub 2004 Jan 18.


Visual position discrimination improves with practice; however, the mechanism(s) underlying this improvement are not yet known. We used positional noise to explore the underlying neural mechanisms and found that position discrimination improved with practice over a range of noise levels. This improvement can be largely explained by an increasing efficiency with which observers used positional information in the stimulus. In a second experiment, we tested the hypothesis that the improved efficiency reflects a re-tuning of the observers' perceptual 'template'--the weightings of inputs from basic visual mechanisms--to more closely match the ideal template required to perform the perceptual task. Using a new technique to measure which parts of the stimulus influenced the observer's performance, we were able to record the re-tuning of the decision template across training sessions; we found a robust and steady increase in template efficiency during learning.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Signal Detection, Psychological
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*