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Vision Res. 2014 Nov;104:80-9. doi: 10.1016/j.visres.2014.10.005. Epub 2014 Oct 16.

Spatial and temporal aspects of chromatic adaptation and their functional significance for colour constancy.

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Institute for Ophthalmic Research, Centre for Ophthalmology, Tübingen University, Germany. Electronic address:


Illumination in natural scenes changes at multiple temporal and spatial scales: slow changes in global illumination occur in the course of a day, and we encounter fast and localised illumination changes when visually exploring the non-uniform light field of three-dimensional scenes; in addition, very long-term chromatic variations may come from the environment, like for example seasonal changes. In this context, I consider the temporal and spatial properties of chromatic adaptation and discuss their functional significance for colour constancy in three-dimensional scenes. A process of fast spatial tuning in chromatic adaptation is proposed as a possible sensory mechanism for linking colour constancy to the spatial structure of a scene. The observed middlewavelength selectivity of this process is particularly suitable for adaptation to the mean chromaticity and the compensation of interreflections in natural scenes. Two types of sensory colour constancy are distinguished, based on the functional differences of their temporal and spatial scales: a slow type, operating at a global scale for the compensation of the ambient illumination; and a fast colour constancy, which is locally restricted and well suited to compensate region-specific variations in the light field of three dimensional scenes.


Chromatic adaptation; Colour constancy; Context; Depth; Natural scenes; Time course

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