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Vis Neurosci. 2002 Jan-Feb;19(1):109-18.

Differential distributions of red-green and blue-yellow cone opponency across the visual field.

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McGill Vision Research, Department of Ophthalmology, McGill University, Montreal, Canada.


The color vision of Old World primates and humans uses two cone-opponent systems; one differences the outputs of L and M cones forming a red-green (RG) system, and the other differences S cones with a combination of L and M cones forming a blue-yellow (BY) system. In this paper, we show that in human vision these two systems have a differential distribution across the visual field. Cone contrast sensitivities for sine-wave grating stimuli (smoothly enveloped in space and time) were measured for the two color systems (RG & BY) and the achromatic (Ach) system at a range of eccentricities in the nasal field (0-25 deg). We spatially scaled our stimuli independently for each system (RG, BY, & Ach) in order to activate that system optimally at each eccentricity. This controlled for any differential variations in spatial scale with eccentricity and provided a comparison between the three systems under equivalent conditions. We find that while red-green cone opponency has a steep decline away from the fovea, the loss in blue-yellow cone opponency is more gradual, showing a similar loss to that found for achromatic vision. Thus only red-green opponency, and not blue-yellow opponency, can be considered a foveal specialization of primate vision with an overrepresentation at the fovea. In addition, statistical calculations of the level of chance cone opponency in the two systems indicate that selective S cone connections to postreceptoral neurons are essential to maintain peripheral blue-yellow sensitivity in human vision. In the red-green system, an assumption of cone selectivity is not required to account for losses in peripheral sensitivity. Overall, these results provide behavioral evidence for functionally distinct neuro-architectural origins of the two color systems in human vision, supporting recent physiological results in primates.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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