Early Visual Cortex Stimulation Modifies Well-Consolidated Perceptual Gains

Dean Shmuel, Sebastian M. Frank, Haggai Sharon, Yuka Sasaki, Takeo Watanabe, Nitzan Censor*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Perception thresholds can improve through repeated practice with visual tasks. Can an already acquired and well-consolidated perceptual skill be noninvasively neuromodulated, unfolding the neural mechanisms involved? Here, leveraging the susceptibility of reactivated memories ranging from synaptic to systems levels across learning and memory domains and animal models, we used noninvasive brain stimulation to neuromodulate well-consolidated reactivated visual perceptual learning and reveal the underlying neural mechanisms. Subjects first encoded and consolidated the visual skill memory by performing daily practice sessions with the task. On a separate day, the consolidated visual memory was briefly reactivated, followed by low-frequency, inhibitory 1 Hz repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation over early visual cortex, which was individually localized using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Poststimulation perceptual thresholds were measured on the final session. The results show modulation of perceptual thresholds following early visual cortex stimulation, relative to control stimulation. Consistently, resting state functional connectivity between trained and untrained parts of early visual cortex prior to training predicted the magnitude of perceptual threshold modulation. Together, these results indicate that even previously consolidated human perceptual memories are susceptible to neuromodulation, involving early visual cortical processing. Moreover, the opportunity to noninvasively neuromodulate reactivated perceptual learning may have important clinical implications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)138-146
Number of pages9
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2021


FundersFunder number
National Eye InstituteR21EY028329


    • consolidation
    • perceptual learning
    • rTMS
    • reactivation
    • reconsolidation


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