Neural and behavioral effects of subordinate-level training of novel objects across manipulations of color and spatial frequency.
Perceptual expertise is marked by subordinate-level recognition of objects in the expert domain. In this study, participants learned one family of full-color, artificial objects at the subordinate (species) level and another family at the basic (family) level. Discrimination of trained and untrained exemplars was tested before and after training across several image manipulations [full-color, grayscale, low spatial frequency (LSF) and high spatial frequency (HSF)] while event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded. Regardless of image manipulation, discrimination (indexed by d') of trained and of untrained exemplars was enhanced after subordinate-level training, but not after basic-level training. Enhanced discrimination after subordinate-level training generalized to untrained exemplars and to grayscale images and images in which LSF or HSF information was removed. After training, the N170 and N250, recorded over occipital and occipitotemporal brain regions, were both more enhanced after subordinate-level training than after basic-level training. However, the topographic distribution of enhanced responses differed across components. The N170 latency predicted reaction time after both basic-level training and subordinate-level training, highlighting an association between behavioral and neural responses. These findings further elucidate the role of the N170 and N250 as ERP indices of subordinate-level expert object processing and demonstrate how low-level manipulations of color and spatial frequency impact behavior and the N170 and N250 components independent of training or expertise.