Contrast-reversal abolishes perceptual learning
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We tested the effects of contrast reversal on perceptual learning in a 10AFC texture identification task. Four groups of subjects performed the task on two consecutive days. One group saw the same textures on both days, whereas three other groups saw novel, rotated (180 deg), or contrast-reversed textures on the second day. Response accuracy improved during the first day in all groups. Accuracy decreased significantly at the start of Day 2 in the groups who saw novel, rotated or contrast-reversed textures, but not in the group who saw the same textures. Moreover, the drop in performance was the same in the groups who saw novel, rotated, and contrast-reversed textures. Control experiments showed that making subjects aware of the stimulus transformations at the start of either the first or second day did not alter the results. Hence, the effects of contrast-reversal and 180 deg rotation on the generalization of learning were the same as the effect of using novel stimuli, and knowledge of the stimulus transformation did not reduce their effects. We consider the implications of this pattern of results for the neural mechanisms recruited during the identification and learning of two-dimensional visual patterns.
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