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Neuron. 2005 Aug 18;47(4):607-20.

Contrast adaptation and representation in human early visual cortex.

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Laboratory for Cognitive Brain Mapping, RIKEN Brain Science Institute, 2-1 Hirosawa, Wako, Saitama 351-0198, Japan.


The human visual system can distinguish variations in image contrast over a much larger range than measurements of the static relationship between contrast and response in visual cortex would suggest. This discrepancy may be explained if adaptation serves to re-center contrast response functions around the ambient contrast, yet experiments on humans have yet to report such an effect. By using event-related fMRI and a data-driven analysis approach, we found that contrast response functions in V1, V2, and V3 shift to approximately center on the adapting contrast. Furthermore, we discovered that, unlike earlier areas, human V4 (hV4) responds positively to contrast changes, whether increments or decrements, suggesting that hV4 does not faithfully represent contrast, but instead responds to salient changes. These findings suggest that the visual system discounts slow uninformative changes in contrast with adaptation, yet remains exquisitely sensitive to changes that may signal important events in the environment.

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