Neurons in area 17 of the cat visual cortex adapt when stimulated by drifting patterns of optimal orientation, spatial frequency and temporal frequency (Ohzawa et al. 1982; Albrecht et al. 1984; Ohzawa et al. 1985). A component of this adaptation has been attributed to a contrast gain-control mechanism, rather than to neural fatigue, and results in enhanced differential sensitivity around the adapting contrast level (Ohzawa et al. 1982; Albrecht et al. 1984; Ohzawa et al. 1985). Experiments described here suggest that neural response rate, the directional selectivity of the cell, and the temporal frequency of the stimulus, are the principal determinants of adaptation, irrespective of other stimulus parameters such as contrast, velocity, or spatial frequency. The present results can nevertheless accommodate the results of previous studies of adaptation, and additionally provide scope for the resolution of apparent contradictions between results from psychophysical and neurophysiological studies of adaptation.