College Papers

Perceptual in task performances (Dosher & Lu, 2005).

Perceptual
learning is defined as the ability to improve the human body’s senses through
experience (Dosher & Lu, 2005; Gold & Watanabe, 2010). Perceptual
learning is one of the earliest research areas within perceptual psychology
(Gold & Watanabe, 2010). In the past, the role of learning through
perception was not accepted by Gestalt psychologists however in 1969, Eleanor
Gibson published the first book which took an ecological approach on perception
which includes perceptual learning (Lu, Yu, Sagi, Watanabe & Levi, 2009;
Lu, Hua, Huang, Zhou and Dosher, 2010). While perceptual learning was not a
focal point of research previously, within the last 30 years a substantial
amount of research has been conducted towards understanding this phenomenon and
its possible applications (Deveau, Lovcik and Seitz, 2013). It is an implicit
way of learning and can be described as learning without being aware of it
(Fahle & Poggio, 2002). It is a form of sensory plasticity which improves
the detection, differentiation and categorisation of sensory stimuli by
altering brain physiology (Fahle, 2009). It is normally
caused by an organism’s environment but it also improves the organism’s ability
to respond to their respective environment (Goldstone, 1998). It is a
widely observed phenomenon that possibly has varying practical and theoretical
applications (Dosher & Lu, 2005).

Perceptual
learning offers insight into the neural plasticity of differing perceptual
levels such as early visual, auditory or somatosensory cortices and
higher-order changes in the weighting of information in task performances
(Dosher & Lu, 2005).  It does not
bind separate processes together like associative learning but rather it
improves discrimination between stimuli (Fahle & Poggio, 2002). Perceptual
learning takes place during the early stages of cortical information processing
but recent research indicates that it may be multilevel and flexible (Kellman,
2002). Perceptual learning is different from other forms of learning due to its
improved sensitivity which is unaffected by cognitive, motor or non-perceptual
factors (Gold & Watanabe, 2010). As a result, it is normally measured
through the decrease of strength, quality or duration of a stimulus needed to
acquire a certain amount of accuracy (Gold & Watanabe, 2010). Evidence has
been found that perceptual learning can be applied to numerous visual tasks
such as object recognition, orientation judgment and depth perception (Lu et
al., 2010).

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Perceptual
learning can be separated into two categories: discovery and fluency (Kellman,
2002). Discovery is described as the ability to determine features that are
relevant for classification or the avoidance of irrelevant information. Fluency
is defined as the ease of extraction which is enhanced through practice and may
lead to automaticity (rapid processing that is unhindered by attentional load).
(Kellman, 2002; Kellman & Garrigan, 2009).

Most
of human behaviour is shaped during early life which has been defined as
critical periods (Morishita & Hensch, 2008). While sensory and perceptual
systems change mostly occur during the critical period, adult perceptual and
sensory systems have enough plasticity to be able to adjust to their respective
environments for any changes (Sasaki, Náñez & Watanabe, 2012) While these
systems are greatly affected during critical periods in early life, new bodies
of research suggest that there is still a great deal of plasticity in later
life (Deveau, Lovcik & Seitz, 2013). Perceptual learning is one form of
learning that has demonstrated the potential of neural plasticity in adults.  According to Gold and Watanabe (2010),
perceptual learning has three reasons why it is a topic of interest. Firstly,
perceptual learning demonstrates an inherent mechanism in our perceptual
systems which must be researched to gain a better understanding of perception.
Secondly, adults can use perceptual learning, giving insight into how learning
and memory can still occur after critical periods of development and should be
studied to gain better of understanding of the underlying mechanisms involved
in this form of learning. Lastly, it is easy to test within laboratory settings
using simple perceptual tasks which researchers can take advantage of
psychophysical, physiological and computational methods to gain a greater grasp
of this form of learning. However, it should be noted that while perceptual
learning demonstrates that perceptual sensitivity can improve with training using
sensory stimuli, the neural basis for this subject is not completely understood
(Law & Gold, 2009). 

Vision
is one sense that is vital for numerous tasks such as social interactions and
navigating the world around us. Poor vision can negatively impact the way in
which people interact with their respective environments (Deveau & Seitz,
2014). Recently, visual perceptual learning has become and interest of research
with regards to improving visual deficits within clinical populations (Campana
& Maniglia, 2015). For over four decades, the visual system has been used
as a key example for plasticity during the critical period (Morishita and
Hensch, 2008). Through research in past experiments on monkeys, cats, and human
clinical trials, monocular deprivation (MD), the deprivation of one eye, in
early life can carry into adult life. If left on its own, it can develop into
amblyopia (lazy eye) which affects between 1-5% of the human population
depending on the population being tested (Holmes & Clarke, 2006). It is
well known that the critical period is a significant milestone in visual
ability development but research indicates that even after the critical period,
adults can still acquire visual abilities through visual tasks and these improvements
can last from months to years (Astle, Webb & Mcgraw, 2011; Watanabe, 2015).

Radiologists
being able to identify cancer in x-rays or geologists learning to differentiate
varying rock types are visual skills that cannot be accomplished by untrained
people and can be acquired past the critical period (Jacobs, 2010). This type
of processing is called visual perceptual learning (VPL). Visual perceptual
learning is a relatively new field that attempts to create clinical trials that
assist in improving visual deficits in adults to gain greater understanding of
the mechanisms involved in vision and neural plasticity (Watanabe & Sasaki,
2015).  Visual perceptual learning has been
considered a promising area of rehabilitation for visual impairments such as
myopia (near-sightedness), presbyopia (blurring of close objects), central and
peripheral vision (Campana & Maniglia, 2015).