On the existence of neurones in the human visual system selectively sensitive to the orientation and size of retinal images

J Physiol. 1969 Jul;203(1):237-60. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1969.sp008862.


1. It was found that an occipital evoked potential can be elicited in the human by moving a grating pattern without changing the mean light flux entering the eye. Prolonged viewing of a high contrast grating reduces the amplitude of the potential evoked by a low contrast grating.2. This adaptation to a grating was studied psychophysically by determining the contrast threshold before and after adaptation. There is a temporary fivefold rise in contrast threshold after exposure to a high contrast grating of the same orientation and spatial frequency.3. By determining the rise of threshold over a range of spatial frequency for a number of adapting frequencies it was found that the threshold elevation is limited to a spectrum of frequencies with a bandwidth of just over an octave at half amplitude, centred on the adapting frequency.4. The amplitude of the effect and its bandwidth are very similar for adapting spatial frequencies between 3 c/deg. and 14 c/deg. At higher frequencies the bandwidth is slightly narrower. For lower adapting frequencies the peak of the effect stays at 3 c/deg.5. These and other findings suggest that the human visual system may possess neurones selectively sensitive to spatial frequency and size. The orientational selectivity and the interocular transfer of the adaptation effect implicate the visual cortex as the site of these neurones.6. This neural system may play an essential preliminary role in the recognition of complex images and generalization for magnification.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Ocular
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials
  • Form Perception
  • Humans
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Potentiometry
  • Time Factors
  • Vision, Ocular*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology