Visual perceptual learning (VPL) with younger subjects is associated with changes in functional activation of the early visual cortex. Although overall brain properties decline with age, it is unclear whether these declines are associated with visual perceptual learning. Here we use diffusion tensor imaging to test whether changes in white matter are involved in VPL for older adults. After training on a texture discrimination task for three daily sessions, both older and younger subjects show performance improvements. While the older subjects show significant changes in fractional anisotropy (FA) in the white matter beneath the early visual cortex after training, no significant change in FA is observed for younger subjects. These results suggest that the mechanism for VPL in older individuals is considerably different from that in younger individuals and that VPL of older individuals involves reorganization of white matter.
Massachusetts General Hospital
University of California Riverside