The course of dark adaptation of the human eye varies with the intensity used for the light adaptation which precedes it. Preadaptation to intensities below 200 photons is followed only by rod adaptation, while preadaptation to intensities above 4000 photons is followed first by cone adaptation and then by rod adaptation.
With increasing intensities of preadaptation, cone dark adaptation remains essentially the same in form, but covers an increasing range of threshold intensities. At the highest preadaptation the range of the subsequent cone dark adaptation covers more than 3 log units.
Rod dark adaptation appears in two types—a rapid and a delayed. The rapid rod dark adaptation is evident after preadaptations to low intensities corresponding to those usually associated with rod function. The delayed rod dark adaptation shows up only after preadaptation to intensities which are hundreds of times higher than those which produce the maximal function of the rods in flicker, intensity discrimination, and visual acuity. The delayed form remains essentially constant in shape following different intensities of preadaptation. However, its time of appearance increases with the preadaptation intensity; after the highest preadaptation, it appears only after 12 or 13 minutes in the dark.
These two modes of rod dark adaptation are probably the expression of two methods of formation of visual purple in the rods after its bleaching by the preadaptation lights.