The Effect of Orientation Learning on Contrast Sensitivity

Nestor Matthews, Zili Liu, and Ning Qian, Vision Research 2001, 41:463-471.
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Regan & Beverley (1985) previously demonstrated that adapting to an oriented visual stimulus improves sensitivity to subtle orientation differences while impairing contrast sensitivity. Here, we investigated whether practice-based improvements in orientation sensitivity would, like adaptation, impair contrast sensitivity. To the contrary, we found that contrast sensitivity actually improved significantly after observers demonstrated practice-based increases in orientation sensitivity. Therefore, while orientation sensitivity can be enhanced either by orientation-discrimination training or by adapting to visual stimuli, these two procedures have opposite effects on contrast sensitivity. This difference suggests that adaptation and perceptual learning on orientation discrimination cannot be sufficiently explained by a shared underlying cause, such as a reduction in neural activity.

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