How Does Colour Vision Works

Topics: Color, Light, Color vision Pages: 6 (2159 words) Published: October 19, 2007
Colour vision is the ability of any organism to distinguish different light based on their wavelength of light they reflect .The visual system derives colour by comparing the responses to light from several types of cone receptor in the eyes. Colour enable use to separate object form each other and from their background as different objects tend to have different colour. On the other hand, object of the same colour are grouped together. One of the most important functions of the human eye is to pick up and detect light. Light is a form of electromagnetic energy. Electromagnetic energy also includes cosmic rays, X rays, ultra violet rays, infrared rays, and radio. The distance from one crest of waves to the next varies greatly from the shortest, which are cosmic rays to the longest, which are radio waves. The visual system is only sensitive to a tiny portion of electromagnetic energy wavelengths of approximately 380 to 760 nanometres. Colour vision is only present in daylight (photopic vision) or under high intensity light from other sources and is absent at night (scotopic vision) or under low intensity lighting.(optic lec no) Cones function in bright conditions and rods function in dim lighting conditions. There are approximately 7 million cones and 120 million rods in the human retina; hence, the two types of receptors are not distributed evenly. The fovea, located at the back of the retina contains most of the cones and none of the rods (it allows for high acuity colour vision). The rods however, reach their maximum density slightly peripheral to the fovea and both cones and rods start to diminish towards the retinal periphery. (Physic Lab., 2002) To understand how colour vision works we need first to understand what is colour and where does it exist? Does it exist within an object or within the light? Colour is a sensory perception, which is caused by the interaction of light with our visual perception equipment (eyes and brain). We need to understand the study of the physical nature of light, its interaction with matter and the physiological as well as psychological understanding. Light is a forms of ever-present energy, Its behaviour can be explained in different ways, one is by assuming that it is a wave and two by assuming that it is made up of particles having no mass (photons). When light interacts with matter it can be reflected back, absorbed or even transmitted through. It travels in a straight line, but it can change its direction when travelling through a medium. (dr hillabrand lecture note) The light waves themselves are not coloured. Colour is experience by a receptor when the light is absorbed or reflected. Sekular& Blake (2002) The colour sensation is actually determined by three physical attributes of light (wavelength, Intensity and spectral purity) and three corresponding psychological qualities of the human colour sensation (Hue, brightness and Saturation). Hue refers to the wavelength of light that produces the - 2 -psychological sensation of colour, for example a short wavelength of light may produce the colour sensation of blue ( Millodot M.,2004) The brightness of a stimulus is directly related to the intensity of the wavelength. The more intense a light the brighter a stimulus will appear. However some stimulus can appear to be brighter then others even though they share the same intensity. Saturation is connected to the spectral purity of light. A pure light consists of a single wavelength and is called monochromatic light. If other colours such as grey or white are added to a monochromatic light then it will appear to be ‘washed out'. A pure monochromatic light would very rarely occur outside of a laboratory setting rather the light that reaches the eye is generally a mixture of different wavelengths. One may wonder how the cones are mediating high acuity colour vision when most of them are located in the fovea. Luckily when we look around we do not just see two or three coloured...

Bibliography: 1. Snowden, Thompson & Troscianko (2006) Basic Vision, Chap. 5
2. Sekuler & Blake (2002) Perception (4th ed.) Chapter 7.
4. The Physical Stimulus for Vision. (2002) [online]
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5. Boynton, R.M., (1971)
6. Hering, E. Outlines of a theory of the light sense. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1964. (Translated from the original 1920 publication by L.M. Hurvich & D. Jameson.)
7. Nathans, J
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