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Neurol Clin. 2003 May;21(2):483-500.

Achromatopsia, color vision, and cortex.

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Department of Psychology, Wolfson Research Institute, University of Durham, Durham DH1 3LE, United Kingdom.


Brain damage can entirely abolish color vision in cases of complete achromatopsia. Other processes that depend on wavelength differences, however, can be retained. Form and motion defined by pure color differences can be perceived readily even when the colors themselves cannot be told apart. The loss of color vision in cerebral achromatopsia has been equated with the loss of a "color center" presumed indispensable for the phenomenal experience of hue. The "color center" has been assigned a role in the cortical construction of color, specifically in implementing the computations that underlie color constancy. Many features of the condition are consistent with this account. Other neurologic patients, however, retain conscious experience of hue, yet fail to disentangle the illuminant and the reflectance properties of surfaces. For them, color experience is determined by the wavelength composition of light reflected from a surface. If their wavelength-dependent vision is mediated by activity in early visual areas, then it is difficult to understand why these areas are unable to perform a similar role when they remain intact in achromatopsic observers. The prevalence of cells in the ventral visual areas of the monkey brain that code color and the further fractionation of color-related areas in human observers revealed by functional imaging suggest multiple color areas. Their different contributions are only just beginning to become apparent.

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