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J Vis. 2016 Jun 1;16(8):18. doi: 10.1167/16.8.18.

Circuitry to explain how the relative number of L and M cones shapes color experience.


The wavelength of light that appears unique yellow is surprisingly consistent across people even though the ratio of middle (M) to long (L) wavelength sensitive cones is strikingly variable. This observation has been explained by normalization to the mean spectral distribution of our shared environment. Our purpose was to reconcile the nearly perfect alignment of everyone's unique yellow through a normalization process with the striking variability in unique green, which varies by as much as 60 nm between individuals. The spectral location of unique green was measured in a group of volunteers whose cone ratios were estimated with a technique that combined genetics and flicker photometric electroretinograms. In contrast to unique yellow, unique green was highly dependent upon relative cone numerosity. We hypothesized that the difference in neural architecture of the blue-yellow and red-green opponent systems in the presence of a normalization process creates the surprising dependence of unique green on cone ratio. We then compared the predictions of different theories of color vision processing that incorporate L and M cone ratio and a normalization process. The results of this analysis reveal that-contrary to prevailing notions--postretinal contributions may not be required to explain the phenomena of unique hues.

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