Network changes in the transition from initial learning to well-practiced visual categorization.

DeGutis, J, D’Esposito.  2009.  Network changes in the transition from initial learning to well-practiced visual categorization., 2009. Frontiers in human neuroscience. 3:44.


Visual categorization is a remarkable ability that allows us to effortlessly identify objects and efficiently respond to our environment. The neural mechanisms of how visual categories become well-established are largely unknown. Studies of initial category learning implicate a network of regions that include inferior temporal cortex (ITC), medial temporal lobe (MTL), basal ganglia (BG), premotor cortex (PMC) and prefrontal cortex (PFC). However, how these regions change with extended learning is poorly characterized. To understand the neural changes in the transition from initially learned to well-practiced categorization, we used functional MRI and compared brain activity and functional connectivity when subjects performed an initially learned categorization task (100 trials of training) and a well-practiced task (4250 trials of training). We demonstrate that a similar network is implicated for initially learned and well-practiced categorization. Additionally, connectivity analyses reveal an increased coordination between ITC, MTL, and PMC when making category judgments during the well-practiced task. These results suggest that category learning involves an increased coordination between a distributed network of regions supporting retrieval and representation of categories.



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