Project

Back to overview

Mental Imagery and Perceptual Learning

English title Mental Imagery and Perceptual Learning
Applicant Mast Fred
Number 135303
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Klinische Psychologie und Psychotherapie Institut für Psychologie Universität Bern
Institution of higher education University of Berne - BE
Main discipline Psychology
Start/End 01.09.2011 - 30.11.2014
Approved amount 338'024.00
Show all

All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
Psychology
Neurophysiology and Brain Research

Keywords (7)

Psychophysics; Perception; Mind's eye; Modeling; Mental Imagery; Perceptual Learning; Cognitive Abilities

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary

). This means thatimagining a stimulus repeatedly helps to better discriminate the same stimuluslater during the process of perception. The demonstration of perceptuallearning without perceptual input was a new finding because it contradicts thebottom-up approach of perceptual learning, which requires a perceptual input. However,despite the empirical evidence, we still know relatively little about theunderlying mechanisms. We will run psychophysical experiments, in which we willtest paradigms, which are known to induce or not to induce perceptual learning andsee whether learning via imagery follows the same principles (e.g., the absenceof transfer from one retinal location to another). We will also investigate theinfluence in the reverse direction, and see whether perceptual learning willtransfer to mental imagery abilities. This would imply that imageryrepresentations are - at least partly - activated during perceptual learning.It is known that individual mental imagery abilities vary a lot betweenindividuals but - to our knowledge - no study has yet isolated the factorsdetermining the improvement of mental imagery skills. In a further step, wewill analyze whether existing top-down models in computational neuroscience canaccount for empirical evidence obtained from the psychophysical studies. Theexperiments we outlined this project will help to explore the mechanisms thatunderlie mental imagery, how imagery relates to perception, and how it can beused for cognitive training. Current Biology isassociated with the ability to generate vivid mental images in the absence ofany perceptual input. A wealth of behavioral evidence has been obtained sincethe 1970-ies about different types of mental imagery abilities, and how theyrelate to perception. Research in cognitive psychology has provided plenty ofempirical demonstrations showing that mental images can facilitate or interferewith the process of visual perception. Recently, we have extended thisknowledge by showing that mental imagery can be used for perceptual learning (Tartaglia,Bamert, Mast & Herzog, 2009, Seeing with the mind’s eye

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Linking perceptual learning with identical stimuli to imagery perceptual learning
Grzeczkowski Lukasz, Tartaglia Elisa, Mast Fred, Herzog Michael (2015), Linking perceptual learning with identical stimuli to imagery perceptual learning, in Journal of Vision, 15(10), 13.
Deleterious effects of roving on learned tasks
Clarke Aaron, Grzeczkowski Lukasz, Mast Fred W., Gauthier Isabelle, Herzog Michael H. (2014), Deleterious effects of roving on learned tasks, in Vision Research, 99, 88-92.
New percepts via mental imagery?
Mast Fred (2012), New percepts via mental imagery?, in Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 1-5.
About individual differences in vision
Grzeczkowski Lukasz, Clarke A., Francis G., Mast Fred, Herzog Michael, About individual differences in vision, in Vision Research.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
PD Dr. Thomas König, PUK, Universität Bern Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Research Infrastructure
Prof. Michael Herzog, EPFL, Lausanne Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
- Exchange of personnel
Prof. Walter Senn, Institut für Physiologie, Universität Bern Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Exchange of personnel

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
European Conference on Visual Perception Poster Perceptual learning with only one stimulus 24.08.2014 Belgrade, Serbien Grzeczkowski Lukasz; Mast Fred; Herzog Michael;
Vision Science Society 2014 Poster Perceptual learning with undiscriminable stimuli 16.05.2014 St. Pete Beach Florida, United States of America Herzog Michael; Mast Fred; Grzeczkowski Lukasz;
Vision Science Society 2013 Talk given at a conference No transfer from visual to visuomotor perceptual learning and vice versa 24.07.2013 Naples FL, United States of America Herzog Michael; Mast Fred; Grzeczkowski Lukasz;
European Conference on Visual Perception Poster Visual and visuomotor perceptual learning: two distinct mechanisms 05.09.2012 Alghero, Italy Mast Fred; Herzog Michael; Grzeczkowski Lukasz;
EPFL-SV Life Science Symposium 2013. Motor control - from neural circuits and diseases to neuroprosthetics. Lausanne, Switzerland. Poster Distinct mechanisms of visual and visuomotor learning 30.08.2012 Lausanne, Switzerland Mast Fred; Herzog Michael; Grzeczkowski Lukasz;


Abstract

The aim of this project is to further investigate the mechanisms shared by mental imagery and visual perception. A wealth of behavioral evidence has been obtained since the 1970-ies about how people use different types of mental imagery abilities, and how they relate to perception. Research in cognitive psychology has provided plenty of empirical demonstrations showing that mental images can facilitate or interfere with the process of visual perception. Moreover, a wealth of neuroimaging research has been ascertained showing that brain activation during mental imagery and visual perception overlaps widely. The interpretation of these findings gave rise to intense discussions (“Imagery-Debate” in cognitive psychology) about the underlying format of representation. In this proposal we pursue a novel approach to explore the relation between mental imagery and perception: perceptual learning. Specifically, we study whether perceptual learning can be influenced by mental imagery, and vice versa, how perceptual learning can influence mental imagery abilities. To our knowledge, we were the first to demonstrate that perceptual learning is still possible by mentally imagining the missing sensory stimulus (Tartaglia, Bamert, Mast & Herzog, 2009, Current Biology). That is, we provided evidence for perceptual learning without perceptual input, which contradicts a purely stimulus-driven approach to perceptual learning. Subsequent experimentation in our labs provided further empirical support for perceptual learning via mental imagery. Still, however, we know relatively little about the mechanisms that underlie learning via mental imagery. Three approaches will be pursued in this application. In Subproject 1 we will need to run several psychophysical experiments, in which we will test paradigms, which are known to induce or not to induce perceptual learning (e.g., no perceptual learning occurs when two different but spatially overlapping bisection stimuli are interleaved from trial to trial, so called roving). It will then be possible to compare the perceptual learning tasks with mental imagery and see whether learning via imagery follows the same principles such as the absence of transfer from one retinal location to another. In Subproject 2, we will investigate the influence in the reverse direction, and see whether perceptual learning will transfer to mental imagery abilities. This would imply that imagery representations are - at least partly - activated during perceptual learning. It is known that individual mental imagery abilities vary a lot between individuals but - to our knowledge - no study has yet isolated the factors determining the improvement of mental imagery skills. Given the fact that previous research has provided firm evidence for an the involvement of early brain areas involved in mental imagery, the question arises whether existing top-down models in computational neuroscience can account for the effects of mental imagery training (e.g., the signal-to-noise ratio in the low-level representation will improve as a result of a strengthened top-down signal). In Subproject 3, a computational model of the bisection discrimination will be developed and fitted to the experimental data gathered in Subprojects 1 and 2. Computational modeling in combination with experimental findings yield yet another important question, which is the distinction between imagery and perception. Using EEG will test whether cortical theta oscillations separate between activation caused by mental imagery and activation caused by visual perception. The outcome of the EEG experiments will help to distinguish between flag theory (mental images are labelled) and readout (distinction at the lower level representation). The experiments described in this proposal will help to explore the mechanisms that underlie mental imagery, how imagery relates to perception, and how computational neuroscience can be used to develop a neurofunctional theory of a mental imagery.
-