After viewing a colored figure on a uniform gray background, an observer will see a negative afterimage after the colored figure disappears. This study shows that the shapes of afterimages vary systematically according to the shape of the adaptation stimuli, a phenomenon that could be caused only by cortical shape adaptation. In the experiments reported here, participants typically saw a hexagonal afterimage after viewing a circle and sometimes saw a circular afterimage after viewing a hexagon. When observers were adapted to rotating circles or hexagons, which produced the same circular retinal painting, they reliably reported that afterimages of circles appeared as hexagons, and vice versa. Furthermore, the fact that this effect also arose through interocular transfer confirms that a cortical process with binocular inputs must have contributed to it. This novel finding reveals that afterimage formation is determined mainly by a cortical process, not by retinal bleaching, and that rival mechanisms detect corners and curves of shapes in cortical processing.
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