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Novel mechanisms of rapid perceptual learning

Project description

It’s not only practice that makes perfect

Repeated practice improves perceptual learning. Some studies have shown that reducing practice can counter processes like visual adaptation. There are also rodent studies suggesting that the reactivation of existing memories can enable their modification. All this points to the possibility that other mechanisms may boost our memorising capability. The EU-funded RapidLearningBrain project will investigate whether brief reactivations of visual memories can evoke effective rapid perceptual learning, when mediated by increased interactions between early visual and high-level regions. The project will apply psychophysics and fMRI-neuronavigated brain stimulation (repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation or TMS) to find neurobehavioural mechanisms modulating brain plasticity and supporting rapid learning, and look for other potential factors using the closed-loop TMS-EEG. The project's findings could contribute to the revision of learning theories.

Objective

Four decades ago, studies have started pointing to sensory plasticity in the adult visual system, documenting surprising improvements in perception. Such perceptual learning is enabled by repeated practice, inducing use-dependent plasticity in early visual areas and their readouts. But is this the only route, or do other forms of more economic learning exist? My rationale is inspired by two distinct lines of evidence: reducing practice can counteract suppressive processes such as visual adaptation, and frameworks originating from rodent studies showing that reactivation of existing memories can enable their modification. This project aims to challenge the fundamental assumption in perceptual learning that only 'practice makes perfect', hypothesizing that brief reactivations of visual memories induce efficient rapid perceptual learning, mediated by increased interactions between early-visual and high-level regions. The objectives of RapidLearningBrain are: (1) To reveal the neurobehavioural mechanisms by which brief exposure to learned information modulates brain plasticity and supports rapid learning, using psychophysics and fMRI-neuronavigated brain stimulation (TMS), with recent behavioural proof of principle provided by my lab (Nature Neuroscience, 2017). (2) To understand the links to consolidation and sleep dynamics. (3) To identify how these novel mechanisms interact across learning disciplines, using closed-loop TMS-EEG modulating interactions between early-visual and high-level regions. (4) To test the hypothesis that similar inherent mechanisms may also result in maladaptive consequences in other domains, when brief reactivations occur spontaneously as intrusive enhanced memories following negative events. Unravelling the mechanisms of this new form of rapid learning could reshape learning theories across domains, setting the foundations to enhance learning in daily life when beneficial, and to downregulate maladaptive consequences of negative memories.

Host institution

TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY
Net EU contribution
€ 1 998 375,00
Total cost
€ 1 998 375,00

Beneficiaries (1)