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Science 301 (5629): 91-94

Copyright © 2003 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Pharmacological Modulation of Perceptual Learning and Associated Cortical Reorganization

Hubert R. Dinse,1* Patrick Ragert,1 Burkhard Pleger,2 Peter Schwenkreis,2 Martin Tegenthoff2

Abstract: The pharmacological basis of perceptual learning and associated cortical reorganizations remains elusive. We induced perceptual learning by Hebbian coactivation of the skin of the tip of the right index finger in humans. Under placebo, tactile two-point discrimination was improved on the coactivated but not on the left index finger. This augmentation was blocked by an N-methyl-D-aspartate–receptor blocker, but doubled by amphetamine. No drug effects were found on the left index finger. The individual amount of cortical reorganization as assessed by mapping of somatosensory evoked potentials was linearly correlated with the pharmacological modulation of discrimination thresholds, implying that perceptual learning and associated cortical changes are controlled by basic mechanisms known to mediate and modulate synaptic plasticity.

1 Institute for Neuroinformatics, Department of Theoretical Biology, Ruhr-University Bochum, D-44780 Bochum, Germany. 2 Department of Neurology, Ruhr-University Bochum, BG-Kliniken Bergmannsheil, D-44789 Bochum, Germany.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: hubert.dinse{at}neuroinformatik.ruhr-uni-bochum.de


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