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Learning and brain plasticity for perceptual decisions

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Visual recognition and categorization are exquisite perceptual skills: whether we are searching for a friend in a busy street or deciding on the attribution of a painting. Learning facilitates these perceptual tasks, yet we know relatively little about the brain plasticity mechanisms involved. I will describe work that combines behavioral measurements, multimodal brain imaging and advanced computational analysis to identify and test these mechanisms. We exploit the complementary spatial and temporal resolution of simultaneous EEG -fMRI to uncover the spatiotemporal dynamics of cortical networks involved in perceptual and categorical learning. I will suggest that learning acts on distinct recognition processes and shapes interactions between brain areas to support perceptual decisions. In particular, our findings reveal that learning changes decision criteria in fronto-parietal circuits, while selectivity for object features is enhanced in occipito-temporal circuits. This work suggests that learning optimizes a distributed neural code for perceptual decisions in the human brain.

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