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Proc Biol Sci. 1991 Oct 22;246(1315):61-9.

Contrast adaptation and contrast masking in human vision.

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Department of Psychology, University of Western Australia, Nedlands.


After a preliminary study of visual evoked potentials (VEPS) to a test grating seen in the presence of masks at different orientations, psychophysical data are presented showing the effects of adaptation and of masking on thresholds for detecting the same test grating. The test is a vertical grating of spatial frequency 2 cycles per degree; adapting and masking gratings differ from the test either in orientation or in spatial frequency. The effects of adaptation and masking are explained by a single mechanism model that assumes: (i) adaptation and masking both alter the contrast response (or transducer) function of the mechanism that detects the test; (ii) masks, but not adaptors, stimulate the mechanism that detects the test; and (iii) a test is detectable when it raises response level by a constant amount. The model incorporates two distinct tuning functions, a broad adaptive contrast function and a narrow effective contrast function. It accounts adequately for all the data, including the location and size of the facilitative dip found in some masking functions, the constant slopes of the threshold elevation segments of adaptation functions and the varying slopes of masking functions. It also predicts the sometimes surprising joint effects of adaptation followed by masking and of two masks operating simultaneously.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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