Fahle M, Timmann-Braun D, Spang K, 2003, "Visual sensory - motor learning in patients and in normal observers" Perception 32 ECVP Abstract Supplement
Visual sensory - motor learning in patients and in normal observers
M Fahle, D Timmann-Braun, K Spang
Perception is often intrinsically coupled with action, and vision in natural scenes is an active process, given our permanently moving eyes. The relation between perception and action can be modified by training and experience, as in perceptual learning. A well-known example of such changes in sensory - motor coupling is prism adaptation. This modification seems to be based, to a large extent, on modifications of the efferent side, and the cerebellum is thought to play an important role. However, recent studies by, for example, fMRI methods indicate that wearing of prisms not only leads to short-term (motor) adaptations but also to structural changes of afferent cortical signal processing. We investigated the speed and transfer (between the eyes as well as between the arms) of modifications caused by prisms in a pointing task. The prisms shifted the visual world in horizontal direction. We measured the amount of mis-pointing as a function of trial number in a group of more than ten patients suffering from cerebellar disorders, comparing the results with those of a group of healthy observers. Surprisingly, the cerebellar patients 'learned' the new task almost as fast as the normal observers, and showed a strong aftereffect after removal of the prisms. These results demonstrate that plasticity of sensory - motor coupling is present even after extensive lesions of the cerebellum. In line with other recent indications of cortical plasticity in adult patients, these results may allow for increased optimism regarding perceptual and sensory - motor rehabilitation of patients after cortical lesions by means of perceptual learning.
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