Adams, Wendy J., Kerrigan, Iona S. and Graf, Erich W.
Efficient visual recalibration from either visual or haptic feedback: The importance of being wrong
Journal of Neuroscience, 30, (44), . (doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2749-10.2010).
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The human visual system adapts to the changing statistics of its environment. For example, the light-from-above prior, an assumption that aids the interpretation of ambiguous shading information, can be modified by haptic (touch) feedback. Here we investigate the mechanisms that drive this adaptive learning. In particular, we ask whether visual information can be as effective as haptics in driving visual recalibration and whether increased information (feedback from multiple modalities) induces faster learning.
During several hours’ training, feedback encouraged observers to modify their existing light-from-above assumption. Feedback was: (i) haptic only (ii) haptic and stereoscopic (providing binocular shape information) or (iii) stereoscopic only. In conditions (i) and (ii), haptic information was received intermittently, as observers touched continuously visible objects, similar to normal visual-haptic exploration.
Haptic-only feedback resulted in substantial learning; the perceived shape of shaded objects was modified in accordance with observers’ new light priors. However, the addition of continuous visual feedback (condition ii) substantially reduced learning. When visual-only feedback was provided intermittently (condition iii), mimicking the time-course of previous haptic feedback, substantial learning returned.
The intermittence of conflicting information, or feedback, appears critical for learning. It causes an initial, erroneous percept to be corrected. Contrary to previous proposals, we found no particular advantage for cross-modal feedback. Instead, we suggest that an ‘oops’ factor drives efficient learning; recalibration is prioritised when a mismatch exists between sequential representations of an object property. This ‘oops’ factor appears important both across and within sensory modalities, suggesting a general principle for perceptual learning and recalibration.
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