Neural adaptation or sensory adaptation is a change over time in the responsiveness of the sensory system to a constant stimulus. It is usually experienced as a change in the stimulus. For example, if one rests one’s hand on a table, one immediately feels the table’s surface on one’s skin. Within a few seconds, however, one ceases to feel the table’s surface. The sensory neurons stimulated by the table’s surface respond immediately, but then respond less and less until they may not respond at all; this is an example of neural adaptation.
Let’s look at this more critically. When it comes to vision and visual complaints, is neural adaptation a real phenomenon or simply a “reshuffling” or re-directing the priorities that attract our attention? Is there genuine neural plasticity or is this more simply a manifestation of fatigue in the setting of life moving on? We can only think of a finite number of things at any point in time. Neural adaptation has become a generalized “waste basket” term for anyone that has to get used to something that is new and commonly something they don’t like. The next time you have a conflict at home or at work, it might be your fault but isn’t it also tempting to say it is the other person’s failure to “neural adapt” to you. Conflict, arguments, divorce, and wars can now be classified as failures of neural adaptation!