A new optical architecture is developed, based on fractional Fourier transforms, that compromises between shift-invariant (frequency) and position-dependent filtering. The analogy of this architecture to wavelet transforms and adaptive neural networks is also presented. The ambiguity and Wigner distribution functions are obtainable from special cases of the filter. The filter design corresponds to the training of the neural networks, and an adaptive learning algorithm is developed based on gradient-descent error minimization and error back propagation. The extension to multilayer architecture is straightforward.