Control of visual adaptation depends upon task

Mark Vergeer, Stephen A. Engel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The visual system optimizes its functioning for a given environment through processes collectively called adaptation. It is currently unknown, however, whether adaptation is affected by the particular task the observer performs within that environment. Two experiments tested whether this is the case. Observers adapted to high contrast grating patterns, and the decay of adaptation was measured using a version of the tilt-aftereffect, while they performed two different secondary tasks. One task involved judging the luminance of a small circular spot at fixation, and was expected to be unaffected by adaptation. The other secondary task involved judging a low contrast grating, and adaptation was expected to make this task difficult by reducing the visibility of the grating. Identical displays containing both a fixation spot and a grating were used for both tasks. Tilt-aftereffects were smaller when subjects concurrently performed the grating task than when they performed the fixation task. These results suggest that the control of adaptation, in this case its decay, is sensitive to the nature of the task the observer is performing. Adaptation may attempt to optimize vision with respect to many different criteria simultaneously; task is likely one of the criteria included in this process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0229343
JournalPloS one
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
SAE received BCS1558308 from the US National Science Foundation, who did not play a role in the study design. We thank Allyson Bigelow for assistance in testing participants.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Vergeer, Engel. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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