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Learning to see (better): Improving visual deficits with perceptual learning

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Book Series: Frontiers Research Topics ISSN: 16648714 ISBN: 9782889196036 Year: Pages: 95 DOI: 10.3389/978-2-88919-603-6 Language: English
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Subject: Science (General) --- Psychology
Added to DOAB on : 2016-08-16 10:34:25
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Perceptual learning can be defined as a long lasting improvement in a perceptual skill following a systematic training, due to changes in brain plasticity at the level of sensory or perceptual areas. Its efficacy has been reported for a number of visual tasks, such as detection or discrimination of visual gratings (De Valois, 1977; Fiorentini & Berardi, 1980, 1981; Mayer, 1983), motion direction discrimination (Ball & Sekuler, 1982, 1987; Ball, Sekuler, & Machamer, 1983), orientation judgments (Fahle, 1997; Shiu & Pashler, 1992; Vogels & Orban, 1985), hyperacuity (Beard, Levi, & Reich, 1995; Bennett & Westheimer, 1991; Fahle, 1997; Fahle & Edelman, 1993; Kumar & Glaser, 1993; McKee & Westheimer, 1978; Saarinen & Levi, 1995), visual search tasks (Ahissar & Hochstein, 1996; Casco, Campana, & Gidiuli, 2001; Campana & Casco, 2003; Ellison & Walsh, 1998; Sireteanu & Rettenbach, 1995) or texture discrimination (Casco et al., 2004; Karni & Sagi, 1991, 1993). Perceptual learning is long-lasting and specific for basic stimulus features (orientation, retinal position, eye of presentation) suggesting a long-term modification at early stages of visual analysis, such as in the striate (Karni & Sagi, 1991; 1993; Saarinen & Levi, 1995; Pourtois et al., 2008) and extrastriate (Ahissar & Hochstein, 1996) visual cortex. Not confined to a basic research paradigm, perceptual learning has recently found application outside the laboratory environment, being used for clinical treatment of a series of visually impairing conditions such as amblyopia (Levi & Polat, 1996; Levi, 2005; Levi & Li, 2009, Polat et al., 2004; Zhou et al., 2006), myopia (Tan & Fong, 2008) or presbyopia (Polat, 2009). Different authors adopted different paradigms and stimuli in order to improve malfunctioning visual abilities, such as Vernier Acuity (Levi, Polat & Hu, 1997), Gratings detection (Zhou et al., 2006), oculomotor training (Rosengarth et al., 2013) and lateral interactions (Polat et al., 2004). The common result of these studies is that a specific training produces not only improvements in trained functions, but also in other, untrained and higher-level visual functions, such as visual acuity, contrast sensitivity and reading speed (Levi et al, 1997a, 1997b; Polat et al., 2004; Polat, 2009; Tan & Fong, 2008). More recently (Maniglia et al. 2011), perceptual learning with the lateral interactions paradigm has been successfully used for improving peripheral vision in normal people (by improving contrast sensitivity and reducing crowding, the interference in target discrimination due to the presence of close elements), offering fascinating new perspectives in the rehabilitation of people who suffer of central vision loss, such as maculopathy patients, partially overcoming the structural differences between fovea and periphery that limit the vision outside the fovea. One of the strongest point, and a distinguishing feature of perceptual learning, is that it does not just improve the subject’s performance, but produces changes in brain’s connectivity and efficiency, resulting in long-lasting, enduring neural changes. By tailoring the paradigms on each subject’s needs, perceptual learning could become the treatment of choice for the rehabilitation of visual functions, emerging as a simple procedure that doesn’t need expensive equipment.

What can simple brains teach us about how vision works

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Book Series: Frontiers Research Topics ISSN: 16648714 ISBN: 9782889196784 Year: Pages: 290 DOI: 10.3389/978-2-88919-678-4 Language: English
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Subject: Science (General) --- Neurology
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Vision is the process of extracting behaviorally-relevant information from patterns of light that fall on retina as the eyes sample the outside world. Traditionally, nonhuman primates (macaque monkeys, in particular) have been viewed by many as the animal model-of-choice for investigating the neuronal substrates of visual processing, not only because their visual systems closely mirror our own, but also because it is often assumed that “simpler” brains lack advanced visual processing machinery. However, this narrow view of visual neuroscience ignores the fact that vision is widely distributed throughout the animal kingdom, enabling a wide repertoire of complex behaviors in species from insects to birds, fish, and mammals. Recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in alternative animal models for vision research, especially rodents. This resurgence is partly due to the availability of increasingly powerful experimental approaches (e.g., optogenetics and two-photon imaging) that are challenging to apply to their full potential in primates. Meanwhile, even more phylogenetically distant species such as birds, fish, and insects have long been workhorse animal models for gaining insight into the core computations underlying visual processing. In many cases, these animal models are valuable precisely because their visual systems are simpler than the primate visual system. Simpler systems are often easier to understand, and studying a diversity of neuronal systems that achieve similar functions can focus attention on those computational principles that are universal and essential. This Research Topic provides a survey of the state of the art in the use of animal models of visual functions that are alternative to macaques. It includes original research, methods articles, reviews, and opinions that exploit a variety of animal models (including rodents, birds, fishes and insects, as well as small New World monkey, the marmoset) to investigate visual function. The experimental approaches covered by these studies range from psychophysics and electrophysiology to histology and genetics, testifying to the richness and depth of visual neuroscience in non-macaque species.

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