[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Previous studies of human contrast adaptation employing visually evoked potentials (VEP) have revealed contradictory results, namely, either a reduction or an enhancement in VEP amplitude. In a cross-adaptation experiment, we explored the possibility that differences in the temporal frequency of adapting and test patterns played a role. Phase-reversing checkerboard stimuli [1-deg check size, temporal frequency 8.5 or 17 reversals per second (rps)] served as adaptation and test pattern with contrasts of 0 or 97%. In 13 subjects, we recorded both retinal (PERG) and cortical (VEP) steady-state responses simultaneously. In a balanced block design, all four combinations of the temporal adaptation and test frequencies were employed. Contrast adaptation reduced the PERG amplitude by about 20% in every temporal condition (P < 0.001). The VEP amplitude was strongly affected by adaptation, but the effect differed in magnitude and sign depending on condition: With identical adaptation and test frequency, amplitude was reduced by 15% (P = 0.07) at 8.5 rps and by 38% at 17 rps (P < 0.05). Adapting at 8.5 rps and testing at 17 rps had a tiny (14%) insignificant effect, whereas adapting at 17 rps and testing at 8.5 rps revealed an amplitude enhancement of 27% (P < 0.05). These strong temporal cross-adaptation effects (in the VEP, but not in the PERG) suggest that the adaptable cortical mechanisms (gain control) can be narrowly tuned in their temporal properties. A sizable adaptation effect can even change its sign when varying the temporal frequency by a factor of two. This finding resolves contradictions between previous VEP adaptation studies and reconciles them with psychophysical findings.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Contrast adaptation occurs in both the retina and the cortex. Defining its spatial dependence is crucial for understanding its potential roles. We thus asked to what degree contrast adaptation depends on spatial frequency, including cross-adaptation. Measuring the pattern electroretinogram (PERG) and the visual evoked potential (VEP) allowed separating retinal and cortical contributions. In ten subjects we recorded simultaneous PERGs and VEPs. Test stimuli were sinusoidal gratings of 98% contrast with spatial frequencies of 0.5 or 5.0 cpd, phase reversing at 17 reversals/s. Adaptation was controlled by prolonged presentation of these test stimuli or homogenous gray fields of the same luminance. When adaptation and test frequency were identical, we observed significant contrast adaptation only at 5 cpd: an amplitude reduction in the PERG (-22%) and VEP (-58%), and an effective reduction of latency in the PERG (-0.95 ms). When adapting at 5 cpd and testing at 0.5 cpd, the opposite effect was observed: enhancement of VEP amplitude by +26% and increase in effective PERG latency by + 1.35 ms. When adapting at 0.5 cpd and testing at 5 cpd, there was no significant amplitude change in PERG and VEP, but a small effective PERG latency increase of +0.65 ms. The 0.5-cpd channel was not adapted by spatial frequencies of 0.5 cpd. The adaptability of the 5-cpd channel may mediate improved detail recognition after prolonged blur. The existence of both adaptable and nonadaptable mechanisms in the retina allows for the possibility that by comparing the adaptational state of spatial-frequency channels the retina can discern between overall low contrast and defocus in emmetropization control.