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Impact of learning on representation of parts and wholes in monkey inferotemporal cortex

Abstract

Here we investigated the impact of visual discrimination training on neuronal responses to parts of images and to whole images in inferotemporal (IT) cortex. Monkeys were trained to discriminate among 'baton' stimuli consisting of discrete top and bottom parts joined by a vertical stem. With separate features at each end, we were able to manipulate the two parts of each baton independently. After training the monkeys, we used single-cell recording to compare neuronal responses to learned and unlearned batons. Responses to learned batons, though not enhanced in strength, were enhanced in selectivity for both individual parts and for whole batons. Whole-baton selectivity arose from a form of conjunctive encoding whereby two parts together exerted a greater influence on neuronal activity than predicted by the additive influence of each part considered individually. These results indicate a possible neural mechanism for holistic or configural effects in expert versus novice observers.

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Figure 1: Baton stimuli and recording location.
Figure 2: Response to the best learned baton plotted against response to the best unlearned baton.
Figure 3: Selectivity was enhanced for learned as compared to unlearned batons.
Figure 4: Selectivity for the individual parts of learned batons was enhanced relative to selectivity for individual parts of unlearned batons.
Figure 5: Learning enhanced the tendency of neurons to respond selectively to just one baton within a tetrad.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by National Institute of Health grant RO1 EY11831. We thank K. Medler and K. McCracken for technical assistance.

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Correspondence to Chris I. Baker.

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Baker, C., Behrmann, M. & Olson, C. Impact of learning on representation of parts and wholes in monkey inferotemporal cortex. Nat Neurosci 5, 1210–1216 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1038/nn960

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