A striking aspect of natural scenes is that image features such as line orientation are strongly correlated at neighboring spatial locations but not at distant locations. Thus, during the viewing of a scene, eye movements are often accompanied by a change in the orientation structure of the image. How does this behavior influence the discrimination of local features and their encoding by visual cortical neurons? Here we examined the perceived changes in orientation induced by brief exposure to oriented image patterns in monkeys and humans, and then used reverse correlation to investigate dynamic changes in neuronal sensitivity in the primary visual cortex (V1) of behaving monkeys. Whereas brief adaptation to an oriented grating impaired identification of nearby orientations by broadening orientation selectivity and changing the preferred orientation of individual V1 neurons, it actually enhanced the identification of orthogonal orientations by sharpening neuronal selectivity. Hence, successive exposure to image patches of dissimilar spatial structure enhances both the ability to discriminate local features and the encoding of these features by V1 neurons.