Long Term Adaptation in Vision

Seminar | January 29 | 12-1 p.m. | 489 Minor Hall

 Stephen Engel, University of Minnesota, Dept. of Psychology

 Neuroscience Institute, Helen Wills

Abstract: Experience with the environment dramatically influences how we act, think, and perceive; understanding the neural plasticity that supports such change is a long-standing goal in cognitive neuroscience. In the visual system, neural function alters dramatically as people adapt to changes in their visual world. Most past work, however, has altered visual input only over the short-term, typically a few minutes. I will present a series of experiments that investigate adaptation over a much longer term, from hours to days to years. We use virtual reality displays to allow subjects to live in, and adapt to, experimentally manipulated visual worlds for long periods of time. We also study the natural adaptation that occurs when people adjust to prescription lenses. Our results suggest that the neural control of adaptation is surprisingly sophisticated, sensitive to the costs and benefits to visual performance, and able to draw upon past experience. Current research is applying these lessons to studies of amblyopia, strabismus, and macular degeneration.