Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists find learning in the visual brain

Date:
November 12, 2010
Source:
University of Minnesota
Summary:
Researchers have found that an early part of the brain's visual system rewires itself when people are trained to perceive patterns, and have shown for the first time that this neural learning appears to be independent of higher order conscious visual processing.

A team of researchers from the University of Minnesota's College of Liberal Arts and College of Science and Engineering have found that an early part of the brain's visual system rewires itself when people are trained to perceive patterns, and have shown for the first time that this neural learning appears to be independent of higher order conscious visual processing.

The researchers' findings could help shape training programs for people who must learn to detect subtle patterns quickly, such as doctors reading X-rays or air traffic controllers monitoring radars. In addition, they appear to offer a resolution to a long-standing controversy surrounding the learning capabilities of the brain's early (or low-level) visual processing system.

The study by lead author Stephen Engel, a psychology professor in the College of Liberal Arts, is published in the Nov. 10 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

"We've basically shown that learning can happen in the earliest stages of visual processing in the brain," Engel said.

The researchers looked at how well subjects could identify a faint pattern of bars on a computer screen that continuously decreased in faintness. They found that over a period of 30 days, subjects were able to recognize fainter and fainter patterns. Before and after this training, they measured brain responses using EEG, which records electrical activity along the scalp produced by the firing of neurons within the brain.

"We discovered that learning actually increased the strength of the EEG signal," Engel said. "Critically, the learning was visible in the initial EEG response that arose after a subject saw one of these patterns. Even a tiny fraction of a second after a pattern was flashed, subjects showed bigger responses in their brain."

In other words, this part of the brain shows local "plasticity," or flexibility, that seems independent of higher order processing, such as conscious visual processing or changes in visual attention. Such higher order processing would take time to occur and so its effects would not be seen in the earliest part of the EEG response.

Engel says these finding may also help adults with visual deficits such as lazy eye by accelerating the development of training procedures to improve the eye's capabilities.

The paper was co-authored by Min Bao, Department of Psychology, College of Liberal Arts, and Bin He, Lin Yang and Christina Rios, Department of Biomedical Engineering, College of Science and Engineering.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Minnesota. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Stephen Engel et al. Perceptual Learning Increases the Strength of the Earliest Signals in Visual Cortex. Journal of Neuroscience, November 10, 2010

Cite This Page:

University of Minnesota. "Scientists find learning in the visual brain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 November 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101110113048.htm>.
University of Minnesota. (2010, November 12). Scientists find learning in the visual brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101110113048.htm
University of Minnesota. "Scientists find learning in the visual brain." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101110113048.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) More and more studies are showing positive benefits to playing video games, but the jury is still out on brain training programs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Spouse's Personality May Influence Your Earnings

Your Spouse's Personality May Influence Your Earnings

Newsy (Sep. 26, 2014) Research from Washington University suggest people with conscientious spouses have greater career success. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can A Blood Test Predict Psychosis Risk?

Can A Blood Test Predict Psychosis Risk?

Newsy (Sep. 26, 2014) Researchers say certain markers in the blood can predict risk of psychosis later in the life. The test can aid in early treatment for the condition. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Harpist Soothes Gorillas, Orangutans With Music

Harpist Soothes Gorillas, Orangutans With Music

AP (Sep. 25, 2014) Teri Tacheny, a harpist, has a loyal following of fans who appreciate her soothing music. Every month, gorillas, orangutans and monkeys amble down to hear her play at the Como Park Zoo in Minnesota. (Sept. 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins