This is a renewal proposal for the currently funded one-year R01 grant (EY019466). Visual perceptual learning (VPL) is defined as a long-term enhancement of visual task performance as a result of visual experience, is regarded as a manifestation of visual and brain plasticity and is seen as a promising tool with which to improve vision that has been degraded due to visual disorders. Over the one-year funding period, we have made significant progress in clarifying specificity of VPL. However, we have yet to address an important question: How can the visual system be sufficiently plastic to adapt to environmental changes, but stable enough to protect existing visual information from being replaced with new information? Our long-term goal is to resolve this dilemma in VPL. Developmental studies of vision have resolved the dilemma by setting a window (critical period) during which the visual system is highly plastic in one's early life. This inspires us to investigae the mechanisms of plasticity periods in VPL with adults. We have found two plasticity periods in VPL. The short-term plasticity period may begin during each visual training session and last less than one hour after the end of the session. The long-term plasticity period may last for at least several days, during which a reorganization of visual processing gradually occurs until performance levels for the trained task saturates. Thus, we need to examine the mechanisms of these two periods separately.
In Aim 1, we will conduct systematic psychophysical investigations to better understand the two plasticity periods in VPL. We have found that 3-hour monocular deprivation (MD) enhances plasticity of monocular processing possibly by abolishing inter-ocular inhibition, whereas reward priming enhances plasticity of binocular processing in a descending way. We will examine how 3-hour MD and reward priming influence the plasticity and stabilization of these two plasticity periods.
In Aim 2, we will examine roles of excitatory and inhibitory processing in the two plasticity periods. The start and end of a visual critical period are associated with changes in the ratio of excitatory to inhibitory signals (E/I ratio). We will address the question of whether and how the two plasticity periods in VPL with adults also relate to E/I ratio changes by means of magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Strong preliminary results have led us to the perspective that the results from Aims 1 and 2 will be consistently and constructively integrated so that functional and neural mechanisms of the two plasticity periods will be better clarified. The results would also be used to develop effective interventions for visual disorders. Although VPL is likely to be associated with changes both within and beyond the visual areas, as our initial approach we will focus on examining visual areas in this proposal.

Public Health Relevance

Training or exposure to a visual feature leads to a long-term increase in performance on the feature, which is called perceptual learning. In this proposal, by use of behavioral and neuroimaging measurements, we aim to clarify how brain functions and mechanisms are changed in association with perceptual learning. The proposed investigations will lead to a significantly better understanding of visual and brain plasticity, which may, in tur, lead to interventions to ameliorate amblyopia, diseases affecting vision, and other pathological or age-related visual declines.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Eye Institute (NEI)
Research Project (R01)
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Mechanisms of Sensory, Perceptual, and Cognitive Processes Study Section (SPC)
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Wiggs, Cheri
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Brown University
Social Sciences
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Kang, Dong-Wha; Kim, Dongho; Chang, Li-Hung et al. (2018) Structural and Functional Connectivity Changes Beyond Visual Cortex in a Later Phase of Visual Perceptual Learning. Sci Rep 8:5186
Watanabe, Takeo; Sasaki, Yuka; Shibata, Kazuhisa et al. (2018) Advances in fMRI Real-Time Neurofeedback: (Trends in Cognitive Sciences 21, 997-1010, 2017). Trends Cogn Sci 22:738
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Sasaki, Yuka; Watanabe, Takeo (2017) When perceptual learning occurs. Nat Hum Behav 1:
Watanabe, Takeo; Sasaki, Yuka; Shibata, Kazuhisa et al. (2017) Advances in fMRI Real-Time Neurofeedback. Trends Cogn Sci 21:997-1010
Shibata, Kazuhisa; Sasaki, Yuka; Bang, Ji Won et al. (2017) Corrigendum: Overlearning hyperstabilizes a skill by rapidly making neurochemical processing inhibitory-dominant. Nat Neurosci 20:1427
Shibata, Kazuhisa; Sasaki, Yuka; Kawato, Mitsuo et al. (2016) Neuroimaging Evidence for 2 Types of Plasticity in Association with Visual Perceptual Learning. Cereb Cortex 26:3681-9
Yahata, Noriaki; Morimoto, Jun; Hashimoto, Ryuichiro et al. (2016) A small number of abnormal brain connections predicts adult autism spectrum disorder. Nat Commun 7:11254
Sasaki, Yuka; Watanabe, Takeo (2016) V3A takes over a job of MT+ after training on a visual task. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 113:6092-3

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