, Volume 162, Issue 1, pp 23-34
Date: 02 Dec 2004

Perceptual learning of line orientation modifies the effects of transcranial magnetic stimulation of visual cortex

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Perceptual learning may be accompanied by physiological changes in early visual cortex. We used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to test the postulate that perceptual learning of a visual task initially performed at 60–65% accuracy strengthens visual processing in early visual cortex. Single pulse TMS was delivered to human occipital cortex at time delays of 70–154 ms after the onset of an odd-element, line orientation discrimination task. When TMS was delivered at a delay of 84 ms or later the accuracy of visual discrimination was transiently degraded in ten subjects. As visual performance in control trials without TMS improved with training, the absolute magnitude of TMS suppression of performance decreased in parallel. This result occurred both when TMS was delivered to broad areas of occipital cortex and when TMS was optimally delivered to early occipital cortex. No change in TMS suppression was observed when three new subjects were given feedback during an odd-element task that did not require substantial perceptual learning. Thus, perceptual learning improved visual performance and reduced TMS suppression of early visual cortex in parallel.