Cortical map plasticity improves learning but is not necessary for improved performance

Neuron. 2011 Apr 14;70(1):121-31. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2011.02.038.


Cortical map plasticity is believed to be a key substrate of perceptual and skill learning. In the current study, we quantified changes in perceptual ability after pairing tones with stimulation of the cholinergic nucleus basalis to induce auditory cortex map plasticity outside of a behavioral context. Our results provide evidence that cortical map plasticity can enhance perceptual learning. However, auditory cortex map plasticity fades over weeks even though tone discrimination performance remains stable. This observation is consistent with recent reports that cortical map expansions associated with perceptual and motor learning are followed by a period of map renormalization without a decrement in performance. Our results indicate that cortical map plasticity enhances perceptual learning, but is not necessary to maintain improved discriminative ability.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Animals
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology*
  • Learning / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Rats