Saturday, September 13, 2008

Effects of category learning on the stimulus selectivity of macaque inferior temporal neurons

De Baene W, Ons B, Wagemans J, Vogels R.
Learn Mem. 2008 Aug 26;15(9):717-27.

Primates can learn to categorize complex shapes, but as yet it is unclear how this categorization learning affects the representation of shape in visual cortex. Previous studies that have examined the effect of categorization learning on shape representation in the macaque inferior temporal (IT) cortex have produced diverse and conflicting results that are difficult to interpret owing to inadequacies in design. The present study overcomes these issues by recording IT responses before and after categorization learning. We used parameterized shapes that varied along two shape dimensions. Monkeys were extensively trained to categorize the shapes along one of the two dimensions. Unlike previous studies, our paradigm counterbalanced the relevant categorization dimension across animals. We found that categorization learning increased selectivity specifically for the category-relevant stimulus dimension (i.e., an expanded representation of the trained dimension), and that the ratio of within-category response similarities to between-category response similarities increased for the relevant dimension (i.e., category tuning). These small effects were only evident when the learned category-related effects were disentangled from the prelearned stimulus selectivity. These results suggest that shape-categorization learning can induce minor category-related changes in the shape tuning of IT neurons in adults, suggesting that learned, category-related changes in neuronal response mainly occur downstream from IT.

PMID: 18772261

Full text:

No comments: