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Vision Res. 1991;31(2):223-36.

The time course of adaptation to spatial contrast.

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Neurologische Universit├Ątsklinik, Abteilung f├╝r Neurophysiologie, Freiburg, F.R.G.


We explored the buildup and decay of threshold elevation during and after adaptation to sinewave gratings in a series of experiments investigating the effects of adapting time, adapting contrast, spatial frequency and retinal eccentricity. Contrast thresholds for vertical sinewave gratings truncated in space by a one-dimensional Gaussian envelope were measured before and after adaptation to a full-field suprathreshold grating of the same spatial frequency and orientation. Thresholds were measured intermittently after adaptation in a "seen/not-seen" single presentation procedure until these thresholds returned to baseline values. The first test grating was presented 300 msec after the offset of the adapting stimulus, and thereafter at regular intervals. At different times after adaptation, contrast thresholds were estimated by off-line analysis of the data using the QUEST algorithm. Adapting time was either 1, 10, 100 or 1000 sec and adapting contrast was either 9, 19, 29 or 39 dB (re. 1%). The test gratings were presented centered either at the fixation point or at 5 and 10 deg eccentricity along the horizontal meridian. The results suggest that up to the saturation level the buildup and the decay of adaptation to contrast is well described by a power function of time. The slope of the best fitting line on log-log axes is fairly constant for the adaptation times tested. As reported earlier, thresholds increased with adapting contrast and these contrast-dependent differences were evident 300 msec after the termination of adaptation. Adaptation at 10 deg eccentricity yielded slightly higher threshold elevations than for central vision. Based on these results, a description is given of the dynamic response of the underlying neural mechanisms.

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