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Nat Rev Neurosci. 2007 Apr;8(4):276-86.

The machinery of colour vision.

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  • 1Disciplines of Physiology, Anatomy and Histology, School of Medical Sciences and Bosch Institute, Anderson-Stuart Building F13, The University of Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia.


Some fundamental principles of colour vision, deduced from perceptual studies, have been understood for a long time. Physiological studies have confirmed the existence of three classes of cone photoreceptors, and of colour-opponent neurons that compare the signals from cones, but modern work has drawn attention to unexpected complexities of early organization: the proportions of cones of different types vary widely among individuals, without great effect on colour vision; the arrangement of different types of cones in the mosaic seems to be random, making it hard to optimize the connections to colour-opponent mechanisms; and new forms of colour-opponent mechanisms have recently been discovered. At a higher level, in the primary visual cortex, recent studies have revealed a simpler organization than had earlier been supposed, and in some respects have made it easier to reconcile physiological and perceptual findings.

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