Reducing crowding by weakening inhibitory lateral interactions in the periphery with perceptual learning

Maniglia, Marcello, Pavan, Andrea, Cuturi, Luigi F , Campana, Gianluca, Sato, Giovanni and Casco, Clara (2011) Reducing crowding by weakening inhibitory lateral interactions in the periphery with perceptual learning. PLoS ONE, 6 (10). e25568. ISSN 1932-6203

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We investigated whether lateral masking in the near-periphery, due to inhibitory lateral interactions at an early level of central visual processing, could be weakened by perceptual learning and whether learning transferred to an untrained, higher-level lateral masking known as crowding. The trained task was contrast detection of a Gabor target presented in the near periphery (4°) in the presence of co-oriented and co-aligned high contrast Gabor flankers, which featured different target-to-flankers separations along the vertical axis that varied from 2λ to 8λ. We found both suppressive and facilitatory lateral interactions at target-to-flankers distances (2λ - 4λ and 8λ, respectively) that were larger than those found in the fovea. Training reduces suppression but does not increase facilitation. Most importantly, we found that learning reduces crowding and improves contrast sensitivity, but has no effect on visual acuity (VA). These results suggest a different pattern of connectivity in the periphery with respect to the fovea as well as a different modulation of this connectivity via perceptual learning that not only reduces low-level lateral masking but also reduces crowding. These results have important implications for the rehabilitation of low-vision patients who must use peripheral vision to perform tasks, such as reading and refined figure-ground segmentation, which normal sighted subjects perform in the fovea.

Keywords:Perceptual learning, Lateral interactions, Collinear facilitation, Crowding
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C800 Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C850 Cognitive Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C830 Experimental Psychology
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Psychology
ID Code:16320
Deposited On:20 Dec 2014 20:26

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