Adaptation Aftereffects in the Perception of Radiological Images

Elysse Kompaniez, Craig K. Abbey, John M Boone, Michael A. Webster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Radiologists must classify and interpret medical images on the basis of visual inspection. We examined how the perception of radiological scans might be affected by common processes of adaptation in the visual system. Adaptation selectively adjusts sensitivity to the properties of the stimulus in current view, inducing an aftereffect in the appearance of stimuli viewed subsequently. These perceptual changes have been found to affect many visual attributes, but whether they are relevant to medical image perception is not well understood. To examine this we tested whether aftereffects could be generated by the characteristic spatial structure of radiological scans, and whether this could bias their appearance along dimensions that are routinely used to classify them. Measurements were focused on the effects of adaptation to images of normal mammograms, and were tested in observers who were not radiologists. Tissue density in mammograms is evaluated visually and ranges from "dense" to "fatty." Arrays of images varying in intermediate levels between these categories were created by blending dense and fatty images with different weights. Observers first adapted by viewing image samples of dense or fatty tissue, and then judged the appearance of the intermediate images by using a texture matching task. This revealed pronounced perceptual aftereffects - prior exposure to dense images caused an intermediate image to appear more fatty and vice versa. Moreover, the appearance of the adapting images themselves changed with prolonged viewing, so that they became less distinctive as textures. These aftereffects could not be accounted for by the contrast differences or power spectra of the images, and instead tended to follow from the phase spectrum. Our results suggest that observers can selectively adapt to the properties of radiological images, and that this selectivity could strongly impact the perceived textural characteristics of the images.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere76175
JournalPLoS One
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 11 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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