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J Physiol. 1972 Oct;226(1):231-48.

Adaptation to square-wave gratings: inhibition between spatial frequency channels in the human visual system.


1. The observation that the detection threshold for a square-wave grating depends only on that of its fundamental was confirmed by showing that adapting to the fundamental spatial frequency caused elevation of the square-wave threshold, to the same extent as the fundamental threshold was elevated by the same adapting pattern. Adapting to the third harmonic frequency had no effect on the square-wave threshold.2. Adapting to a square-wave grating should elevate the thresholds for both the fundamental and third harmonic frequencies (Blakemore & Campbell, 1969), and the amount of elevation at each frequency should be predictable from the contrast of that frequency within the square-wave.3. It was found, however, that both the fundamental and third harmonic, when present in the square-wave, were much less effective as suprathreshold adapting stimuli than would be predicted from their effects when viewed in isolation.4. Adapting to a mixture of two sinusoidal gratings (with 3:1 frequency ratio) demonstrated that the fall in adapting power was not due to the higher harmonics of the square-wave nor to nonlinearities in the stimulus display. Similar effects were found when the phase relations of the adapting gratings were changed, showing that the interaction is not a special property of square-waves or of edges.5. It is suggested that the spatial frequency channels subserving the fundamental and third harmonic frequencies inhibit each other when the patterns are some way suprathreshold. At or near threshold, there is no such reciprocal inhibition.

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