Learning to filter out visual distractors

Authors

  • Viktor Gál,

    1. MR Research Center, Szentágothai J. Knowledge Center, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary
    2. Faculty of Information Technology, Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Budapest, Hungary
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  • Lajos R. Kozák,

    1. MR Research Center, Szentágothai J. Knowledge Center, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary
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  • István Kóbor,

    1. MR Research Center, Szentágothai J. Knowledge Center, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary
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  • Éva M. Bankó,

    1. Faculty of Information Technology, Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Budapest, Hungary
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  • John T. Serences,

    1. Department of Psychology, University of California, San Diego, CA, USA
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  • Zoltán Vidnyánszky

    1. MR Research Center, Szentágothai J. Knowledge Center, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary
    2. Faculty of Information Technology, Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Budapest, Hungary
    3. Neurobionics Research Group, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Semmelweis University, Tûzoltó u. 58, 1094 Budapest, Hungary
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Dr Zoltán Vidnyánszky, as above.
E-mail: vidnyanszky@digitus.itk.ppke.hu

Abstract

When learning to master a visual task in a cluttered natural environment, it is important to optimize the processing of task-relevant information and to efficiently filter out distractors. However, the mechanisms that suppress task-irrelevant information are not well understood. Here we show that training leads to a selective increase in motion coherence detection thresholds for task-irrelevant motion directions that interfered with the processing of task-relevant directions during training. Furthermore, using functional magnetic resonance imaging we found that training attenuated neural responses associated with the task-irrelevant direction compared with the task-relevant direction in the visual cortical areas involved in processing of visual motion. The strongest suppression of functional magnetic resonance imaging responses to task-irrelevant motion information was observed in human area MT+. These findings reveal that perceptual learning leads to the suppression and efficient filtering of task-irrelevant visual information.

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