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An important requirement for constructing effective content-based image retrieval (CBIR) systems is accurate characterization of visual information. Conventional nonadaptive models, which are usually adopted for this task in simple CBIR systems, do not adequately capture all aspects of the characteristics of the human visual system. An effective way of addressing this problem is to adopt a "human-computer" interactive approach, where the users directly teach the system about what they regard as being significant image features and their own notions of image similarity. We propose a machine learning approach for this task, which allows users to directly modify query characteristics by specifying their attributes in the form of training examples. Specifically, we apply a radial-basis function (RBF) network for implementing an adaptive metric which progressively models the notion of image similarity through continual relevance feedback from users. Experimental results show that the proposed methods not only outperform conventional CBIR systems in terms of both accuracy and robustness, but also previously proposed interactive systems.