Simple exposure is sufficient to sensitize the human visual system to a particular direction of motion, but the underlying mechanisms of this process are unclear. Here, in a passive perceptual learning task, we found that exposure to task-irrelevant motion improved sensitivity to the local motion directions within the stimulus, which are processed at low levels of the visual system. In contrast, task-irrelevant motion had no effect on sensitivity to the global motion direction, which is processed at higher levels. The improvement persisted for at least several months. These results indicate that when attentional influence is limited, lower-level motion processing is more receptive to long-term modification than higher-level motion processing in the visual cortex.