Cat striate cortical neurons were investigated using a new method of studying adaptation aftereffects. Stimuli were sinusoidal gratings of variable contrast, spatial frequency, and drift direction and rate. A series of alternating adapting and test trials was presented while recording from single units. Control trials were completely integrated with the adapted trials in these experiments.
Every cortical cell tested showed selective adaptation aftereffects. Adapting at suprathreshold contrasts invariably reduced contrast sensitivity. Significant aftereffects could be observed even when adapting at low contrasts.
The spatial-frequency tuning of aftereffects varied from cell to cell. Adapting at a given spatial frequency generally resulted in a broad response reduction at test frequencies above and below the adapting frequency. Many cells lost responses predominantly at frequencies lower than the adapting frequency.
The tuning of aftereffects varied with the adapting frequency. In particular, the strongest aftereffects occurred near the adapting frequency. Adapting at frequencies just above the optimum for a cell often altered the spatial-frequency tuning by shifting the peak toward lower frequencies. The fact that the tuning of aftereffects did not simply match the tuning of the cell, but depended on the adapting stimulus, implies that extrinsic mechanisms are involved in adaptation effects.