Abstract A great deal is known about the initial steps of visual processing. We know that humans have neural mechanisms selectively tuned to simple patterns of particular spatial frequencies and orientations. We also know that much later in the visual pathway, in inferotemporal cortex, cells respond to extremely complex visual patterns such as images of faces. Very little is known about intermediate levels of visual processing, where early visual signals are presumably combined to represent increasingly complex visual features. Here we show the existence of visual mechanisms in humans, tuned and selective to particular combinations of simple sinusoidal patterns, using a novel method of compound adaptation.