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Curr Biol. 2012 Apr 10;22(7):622-6. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.02.021. Epub 2012 Mar 1.

Predictive properties of visual adaptation.

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Université Paris Descartes, Sorbonne Paris Cité, Paris, France.


What humans perceive depends in part on what they have previously experienced. After repeated exposure to one stimulus, adaptation takes place in the form of a negative correlation between the current percept and the last displayed stimuli. Previous work has shown that this negative dependence can extend to a few minutes in the past, but the precise extent and nature of the dependence in vision is still unknown. In two experiments based on orientation judgments, we reveal a positive dependence of a visual percept with stimuli presented remotely in the past, unexpectedly and in contrast to what is known for the recent past. Previous theories of adaptation have postulated that the visual system attempts to calibrate itself relative to an ideal norm or to the recent past. We propose instead that the remote past is used to estimate the world's statistics and that this estimate becomes the reference. According to this new framework, adaptation is predictive: the most likely forthcoming percept is the one that helps the statistics of the most recent percepts match that of the remote past.

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