Adaptation by Hyperpolarization

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Science  09 May 1997:
Vol. 276, Issue 5314, pp. 913-914
DOI: 10.1126/science.276.5314.913

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Adaption to external stimuli prevents us from being overwhelmed by the constant bombardment of our senses: A noxious odor, immediately repulsive, becomes hardly noticeable; after a time, the sound of traffic is no longer annoying. A report in this week's issue by Carandini and Ferster (p. 949) describes an unexpected mechanism by which the visual system accomplishes this adaptation in the cortex of the brain. In his Perspective, Barlow discusses how these results may also explain other brain functions such as attention and some aspects of learning.