Learning to see again: Perceptual learning of simulated abnormal on- off-cell population responses in sighted individuals

Rebecca B. Esquenazi, Kimberly Meier, Michael Beyeler, Geoffrey M. Boynton, Ione Fine Journal of Vision 21(10)


Many forms of artificial sight recovery, such as electronic implants and optogenetic proteins, generally cause simultaneous, rather than complementary firing of on- and off-center retinal cells. Here, using virtual patients—sighted individuals viewing distorted input—we examine whether plasticity might compensate for abnormal neuronal population responses. Five participants were dichoptically presented with a combination of original and contrast-reversed images. Each image (I) and its contrast-reverse (Iʹ) was filtered using a radial checkerboard (F) in Fourier space and its inverse (Fʹ). [I * F′] + [Iʹ * F] was presented to one eye, and [I * F] + [Iʹ * F′] was presented to the other, such that regions of the image that produced on-center responses in one eye produced off-center responses in the other eye, and vice versa. Participants continuously improved in a naturalistic object discrimination task over 20 one-hour sessions. Pre-training and post-training tests suggest that performance improvements were due to two learning processes: learning to recognize objects with reduced visual information and learning to suppress contrast-reversed image information in a non–eye-selective manner. These results suggest that, with training, it may be possible to adapt to the unnatural on- and off-cell population responses produced by electronic and optogenetic sight recovery technologies.

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