"Learning to Recognize: How Brain Plasticity Impacts Cortical Processing"
Dr. Eduardo Mercado III
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Psychology
University at Buffalo, SUNY
February 7, 2008
314 Dewey Hall
To benefit from experience, individuals must adjust how they perceive, interpret, or respond to actions and events. This talk will examine how learning-induced cortical reorganization contributes to this process. In particular, I will discuss recent comparative studies of auditory perceptual learning in rats and humans that shed some light on the mechanisms that constrain how learning experiences impact perceptual abilities. Studies with adult rats show that some auditory distinctions are extremely difficult or impossible for rats to learn to make unless they have prior experience with less challenging distinctions, suggesting that the fidelity or utility of auditory representations is experience-dependent. Electrophysiological measures of cortical responses from na´ve and experienced rats suggest that auditory training increases the selectivity of cortical neurons for particular acoustic features experienced during training. Behavioral experiments with humans also indicate that different auditory training experiences can differentially impact perceptual and cortical sensitivities. Scalp recordings collected before and after training on an auditory identification task show that changes in cortical response properties parallel behavioral improvements. These findings suggest several new ways that neurophysiological measures, behavioral training, and neurostimulation can be combined to remediate perceptual and intellectual deficits.
Support for this lecture series is provided through the generosity of Professor Richard M. Foote.