The brain utilizes distinct neural mechanisms that ease the transition through different stages of learning. Furthermore, evidence from category learning has shown that dissociable memory systems are engaged, depending on the structure of a task. This can even hold true for tasks that are very similar to each other, which complicates the process of classifying brain activity as relating to changes that are associated with learning or reflecting the engagement of a memory system suited for the task. The primary goals of these studies were to characterize the mechanisms that are associated with category learning and understand the extent to which different memory systems are recruited within a single task. Two studies providing spatial and temporal distinctions between learning-related changes in the brain and category-dependent memory systems are presented. The results from these experiments support the notion that exemplar memorization, rule-based, and perceptual similarity-based categorization are flexibly recruited in order to optimize performance during a single task. We conclude that these three methods, along with the memory systems they rely on, aid in the development of expertise, but their engagement might depend on the level of familiarity with a category.
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