Experience-dependent plasticity in adult visual cortex is believed to have important roles in visual coding and perceptual learning. Here we show that repeated stimulation with movies of natural scenes induces a rapid improvement in response reliability in cat visual cortex, whereas stimulation with white noise or flashed bar stimuli does not. The improved reliability can be accounted for by a selective increase in spiking evoked by preferred stimuli, and the magnitude of improvement depends on the sparseness of the response. The increase in reliability persists for at least several minutes in the absence of further movie stimulation. During this period, spontaneous spiking activity shows detectable reverberation of the movie-evoked responses. Thus, repeated exposure to natural stimuli not only induces a rapid improvement in cortical response reliability, but also leaves a 'memory trace' in subsequent spontaneous activity.