The effects of short-term and long-term learning on the responses of lateral intraparietal neurons to visually presented objects

J Cogn Neurosci. 2015 Jul;27(7):1360-75. doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_00789. Epub 2015 Jan 29.


The lateral intraparietal area (LIP) is thought to play an important role in the guidance of where to look and pay attention. LIP can also respond selectively to differently shaped objects. We sought to understand to what extent short-term and long-term experience with visual orienting determines the responses of LIP to objects of different shapes. We taught monkeys to arbitrarily associate centrally presented objects of various shapes with orienting either toward or away from a preferred spatial location of a neuron. The training could last for less than a single day or for several months. We found that neural responses to objects are affected by such experience, but that the length of the learning period determines how this neural plasticity manifests. Short-term learning affects neural responses to objects, but these effects are only seen relatively late after visual onset; at this time, the responses to newly learned objects resemble those of familiar objects that share their meaning or arbitrary association. Long-term learning affects the earliest bottom-up responses to visual objects. These responses tend to be greater for objects that have been associated with looking toward, rather than away from, LIP neurons' preferred spatial locations. Responses to objects can nonetheless be distinct, although they have been similarly acted on in the past and will lead to the same orienting behavior in the future. Our results therefore indicate that a complete experience-driven override of LIP object responses may be difficult or impossible. We relate these results to behavioral work on visual attention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Microelectrodes
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology
  • Saccades / physiology
  • Space Perception / physiology
  • Time Factors
  • Visual Perception / physiology*