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Vision Res. 1992 Jul;32(7):1297-318.

The effect of adaptation on the differential sensitivity of the S-cone color system.

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Department of Psychology, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027.


This paper presents a psychophysical dissection of the S-cone color system. Experiments were guided by a skeletal model that assumed a first stage consisting of S-, M- and L-cones, and a second stage of the opponent combination of the S and L+M signals. The response of the S-cone system was isolated by measuring difference thresholds between lights that were equiluminant tritanopic confusion pairs and thus differed only in S-cone excitation. Two types of mechanisms that control sensitivity in the S-cone system were identified: (i) static mechanisms that have a restricted range and thus limit discrimination to a small range of inputs; and (ii) adaptive mechanisms that change the state of the system in response to changes in steady illumination, so that the system is sensitive to small changes from the adapting light. These mechanisms were localized by lights that stimulated the S-cone system while keeping the signal constant at either the S, the L+M, or the post-opponent stage. The response function of the static mechanism was estimated by measuring difference thresholds at judgment points other than the steady adapting light. This procedure was repeated at a number of adaptation lights to examine the properties of adaptive mechanisms. The data were consistent with an elaborated model that included identical multiplicative gain control mechanisms in the S and L+M pre-opponent branches, and a post-opponent static sigmoidal nonlinearity with different amounts of compression for positive and negative opponent inputs.

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