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Color Vision.

Authors

Gouras P.

Editors

In: Kolb H, Fernandez E, Nelson R, editors.

Source

Webvision: The Organization of the Retina and Visual System [Internet]. Salt Lake City (UT): University of Utah Health Sciences Center; 1995-.
2005 May 01 [updated 2009 Jul 01].

Excerpt

Color vision is an illusion created by the interactions of billions of neurons in our brain. There is no color in the external world; it is created by neural programs and projected onto the outer world we see. It is intimately linked to the perception of form where color facilitates detecting borders of objects (Fig. 1). Color is created by utilizing two properties of light, energy and frequency of vibration or wavelength. How our brain separates these two properties of light, energy and wavelength, and then recombines them into color perception is a mystery that has intrigued scientists through the ages. We know much about the nature of light and the subjective impressions of color, definable by physical standards (1) but ultimately color should be explained at the level of single cells in our brain. Examination of the responses of single neurons or arrays of such neurons provides the best insights into the physiology of color vision. Ultimately our understanding of this process will allow us to model the neural circuits that underlie the perception of color and form. Although still beyond reach, progress is being made in deciphering these clever circuits that create our perception of the external world. We start by describing the nature of the photoreceptors that convert light energy into neural signals. Then we consider the parallel channels leading from the retina to the thalamus carrying information into visual cortex, where color is ultimately determined. Lastly we use our current understanding to speculate on how visual cortex uses neural circuits to create the perception of color and form.

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