Membrane mechanisms underlying contrast adaptation in cat area 17 in vivo

J Neurosci. 2000 Jun 1;20(11):4267-85. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.20-11-04267.2000.


Contrast adaptation is a psychophysical phenomenon, the neuronal bases of which reside largely in the primary visual cortex. The cellular mechanisms of contrast adaptation were investigated in the cat primary visual cortex in vivo through intracellular recording and current injections. Visual cortex cells, and to a much less extent, dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus (dLGN) neurons, exhibited a reduction in firing rate during prolonged presentations of a high-contrast visual stimulus, a process we termed high-contrast adaptation. In a majority of cortical and dLGN cells, the period of adaptation to high contrast was followed by a prolonged (5-80 sec) period of reduced responsiveness to a low-contrast stimulus (postadaptation suppression), an effect that was associated, and positively correlated, with a hyperpolarization of the membrane potential and an increase in apparent membrane conductance. In simple cells, the period of postadaptation suppression was not consistently associated with a decrease in the grating modulated component of the evoked synaptic barrages (the F1 component). The generation of the hyperpolarization appears to be at least partially intrinsic to the recorded cells, because the induction of neuronal activity with the intracellular injection of current resulted in both a hyperpolarization of the membrane potential and a decrease in the spike response to either current injections or visual stimuli. Conversely, high-contrast visual stimulation could suppress the response to low-intensity sinusoidal current injection. We conclude that control of the membrane potential by intrinsic neuronal mechanisms contributes importantly to the adaptation of neuronal responsiveness to varying levels of contrast. This feedback mechanism, internal to cortical neurons, provides them with the ability to continually adjust their responsiveness as a function of their history of synaptic and action potential activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Ocular / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Contrast Sensitivity*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electrophysiology
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Potassium Channels / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Visual Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Visual Cortex / cytology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*


  • Potassium Channels