Title

Perceptual fading of a stabilized cortical image: Replication in the undergraduate classroom

Document Type

Article

Department

​​Psychology

Publication Date

9-1-2021

Abstract

Prolonged exposure to a stimulus causes desensitization of cortical neurons and results in perceptual changes. One example of this phenomenon is contrast adaptation, in which perceived differences between light and dark regions of a stimulus decrease. Blakemore, Muncey, and Ridley reported evidence for the “perceptual fading of a stabilized cortical image” in a 1971 Nature paper. Our goal was to replicate their second experiment, in which adaptation was measured across many contrasts, and develop an active learning exercise for undergraduate students. The experiment was coded using an open-source python package and psychophysical data were collected from two observers. On each trial, a sinusoidally modulated luminance grating appeared above fixation, and the task of the observer was to adjust the contrast of a grating below fixation until the two appeared identical. Between trials in the adaptation condition, a high contrast grating was presented in the top location; no such grating appeared between trials in the control condition. Contrast matches showed a clear reduction during the adaptation condition, thus demonstrating perceptual fading and a successful replication of Blakemore et al. (1971). We then simplified the approach and modified the code to create a single, seamless experience for use in the classroom. With instructions and theoretical background provided in a one-page handout, students can perform the experiment on themselves and view their results in an automatically generated figure. This exercise, a primary example of active learning, will help students gain a first-hand understanding of the perceptual effects of adaptation.

Comments

Published in eNeuro under Open Access terms.

Publication Title

eNeuro

Volume

8

Issue

5

DOI

10.1523/ENEURO.0323-21.2021

PubMed ID

34531282

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