Adaptation to temporal modulation can enhance differential speed sensitivity

Colin W. G. Clifford*, Peter Wenderoth

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    60 Citations (Scopus)


    During adaptation to a moving pattern, perceived speed decreases. Thus we know that the adapted visual system does not simply code the absolute speed of a stimulus. We hypothesised that adaptation to a moving stimulus serves to optimise coding of changes in speed at the expense of maintaining an accurate representation of absolute speed. In this case we would expect discrimination of speeds around the adapted level to be preserved or enhanced by motion adaptation. Speed discrimination thresholds were measured for sinusoidal gratings (1.25 cpd; 12.5 Hz; 40% contrast) with and without prior adaptation to moving, static, and flickering stimuli. After adaptation to motion in the same direction as the test, seven of eight subjects showed a reduction of perceived speed in the adapted region, and seven showed enhanced discrimination. Similar effects were found for adaptation to motion in the opposite direction to the test and to counter-phase flicker, suggesting that adaptation is driven by temporal modulation rather than by motion per se. We conclude that motion adaptation preserves or enhances differential speed sensitivity at the expense of an accurate representation of absolute speed. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Ltd.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)4324-4331
    Number of pages8
    JournalVision Research
    Issue number26
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 1999


    • adaptation
    • motion
    • perceived speed
    • speed discrimination
    • visual psychophysics


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