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Perceptual Learning Incepted by Decoded fMRI Neurofeedback Without Stimulus Presentation

Science  09 Dec 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6061, pp. 1413-1415
DOI: 10.1126/science.1212003

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Abstract

It is controversial whether the adult primate early visual cortex is sufficiently plastic to cause visual perceptual learning (VPL). The controversy occurs partially because most VPL studies have examined correlations between behavioral and neural activity changes rather than cause-and-effect relationships. With an online-feedback method that uses decoded functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) signals, we induced activity patterns only in early visual cortex corresponding to an orientation without stimulus presentation or participants’ awareness of what was to be learned. The induced activation caused VPL specific to the orientation. These results suggest that early visual areas are so plastic that mere inductions of activity patterns are sufficient to cause VPL. This technique can induce plasticity in a highly selective manner, potentially leading to powerful training and rehabilitative protocols.

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