Supramodal processing optimizes visual perceptual learning and plasticity

Abstract : Multisensory interactions are ubiquitous in cortex and it has been suggested that sensory cortices may be supramodal i.e. capable of functional selectivity irrespective of the sensory modality of inputs (Pascual-Leone and Hamilton, 2001; Ricciardi and Pietrini, 2011; Voss and Zatorre, 2012; Renier et al., 2013). Here, we asked whether learning to discriminate visual coherence could benefit from supramodal processing. To this end, three groups of participants were briefly trained to discriminate which of a red or green intermixed population of random-dot-kinematograms (RDKs) was most coherent in a visual display while being recorded with magnetoencephalography (MEG). During training, participants heard no sound (V), congruent acoustic textures (AV) or auditory noise (AVn); importantly, congruent acoustic textures shared the temporal statistics – i.e. coherence – of visual RDKs. After training, the AV group significantly outperformed participants trained in V and AVn although they were not aware of their progress. In pre- and post-training blocks, all participants were tested without sound and with the same set of RDKs. When contrasting MEG data collected in these experimental blocks, selective differences were observed in the dynamic pattern and the cortical loci responsive to visual RDKs. First and common to all three groups, vlPFC showed selectivity to the learned coherence levels whereas selectivity in visual motion area hMT+ was only seen for the AV group. Second and solely for the AV group, activity in multisensory cortices (mSTS, pSTS) correlated with post-training performances; additionally, the latencies of these effects suggested feedback from vlPFC to hMT+ possibly mediated by temporal cortices in AV and AVn groups. Altogether, we interpret our results in the context of the Reverse Hierarchy Theory of learning (Ahissar and Hochstein, 2004) in which supramodal processing optimizes visual perceptual learning by capitalizing on sensory-invariant representations - here, global coherence levels across sensory modalities.
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https://hal.inria.fr/hal-01084251
Contributor : Philippe Ciuciu <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, November 18, 2014 - 6:46:40 PM
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Nicolas Zilber, Philippe Ciuciu, Alexandre Gramfort, Leila Azizi, Virginie van Wassenhove. Supramodal processing optimizes visual perceptual learning and plasticity. NeuroImage, Elsevier, 2014, 93, pp.32 - 46. ⟨10.1016/j.neuroimage.2014.02.017⟩. ⟨hal-01084251⟩

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