Biological Cybernetics

, Volume 106, Issue 11–12, pp 657–668 | Cite as

Stimulus-specific adaptation, habituation and change detection in the gaze control system

  • Yoram Gutfreund
Open Access


This prospect article addresses the neurobiology of detecting and responding to changes or unexpected events. Change detection is an ongoing computational task performed by the brain as part of the broader process of saliency mapping and selection of the next target for attention. In the optic tectum (OT) of the barn owl, the probability of the stimulus has a dramatic influence on the neural response to that stimulus; rare or deviant stimuli induce stronger responses compared to common stimuli. This phenomenon, known as stimulus-specific adaptation, has recently attracted scientific interest because of its possible role in change detection. In the barn owl’s OT, it may underlie the ability to orient specifically to unexpected events and is therefore opening new directions for research on the neurobiology of fundamental psychological phenomena such as habituation, attention, and surprise.


Optic tectum Barn owl Novely detection Auditory Superior colliculus Adaptation Orienting response 



This work was supported by grants from the Israel Science Foundation and the Institute for Psychobiology in Israel. The author thanks Amit Reches, Yael Zahar, and Shai Netser.

Open Access

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and the source are credited.


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© The Author(s) 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Department of Physiology and Biophysics, The Ruth & Bruce Rappaport Faculty of MedicineTechnionHaifaIsrael

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