Now out: Perceptual learning while preparing saccades

Quite some time ago, our paper on perceptual learning during saccade preparation has been accepted for publication in Vision Research. This project started with an idea in 2010, innocently pitched at one of the legendary lunch lab meetings at Patrick Cavanagh’s house in Paris. He had just asked me what I’d like to work on with Marisa Carrasco (I joined her lab one month later). The project was all but innocuous. Almost 9 years later, it is finally published as part of a Special Issue on perceptual learning.

Here is the abstract:

Traditional perceptual learning protocols rely almost exclusively on long periods of uninterrupted fixation. Taking a first step towards understanding perceptual learning in natural vision, we had observers report the orientation of a briefly flashed stimulus (clockwise or counterclockwise from a reference orientation) presented strictly during saccade preparation at a location offset from the saccade target. For each observer, the saccade direction, stimulus location, and orientation remained the same throughout training. Subsequently, we assessed performance during fixation in three transfer sessions, either at the trained or at an untrained location, and either using an untrained (Experiment 1) or the trained (Experiment 2) stimulus orientation. We modeled the evolution of contrast thresholds (i.e., the stimulus contrast necessary to discriminate its orientation correctly 75% of the time) as an exponential learning curve, and quantified departures from this curve in transfer sessions using two new, complementary measures of transfer costs (i.e., performance decrements after the transition into the Transfer phase). We observed robust perceptual learning and associated transfer costs for untrained locations and orientations. We also assessed if spatial transfer costs were reduced for the remapped location of the pre-saccadic stimulus—the location the stimulus would have had (but never had) after the saccade. Although the pattern of results at that location differed somewhat from that at the control location, we found no clear evidence for perceptual learning at remapped locations. Using novel, model-based ways to assess learning and transfer costs, our results show that location and feature specificity, hallmarks of perceptual learning, subsist if the target stimulus is presented strictly during saccade preparation throughout training.

The full article can be found here.