Distinct mechanism for long-term contrast adaptation

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To optimize perception, neurons in the visual system adapt to the current environment. What determines the durability of this plasticity? Longer exposures to an environment produce longer-lasting effects, which could be due to either (i) a single mechanism controlling adaptation that gains strength over time, or (ii) long-term mechanisms that become active after long-term exposure. Using recently developed technology, we tested adaptation durations an order of magnitude greater that those tested previously, and used a " deadaptation" procedure to reveal effects of a unique long-term mechanism in the longest adaptation periods. After 4 h of contrast adaptation, human observers were exposed to natural images for 15 min, which completely cancelled perceptual aftereffects of adaptation. Strikingly, during continued testing this deadaptation faded, and the original adaptation effects reappeared. This pattern strongly suggests that adaptation was maintained in a distinct long-term mechanism, where as dead aptation affected a short-term mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5898-5903
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number15
StatePublished - Apr 10 2012


  • Adult neuroplasticity
  • Deprivation
  • Orientation


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