The machinery of colour vision

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2007 Apr;8(4):276-86. doi: 10.1038/nrn2094.


Some fundamental principles of colour vision, deduced from perceptual studies, have been understood for a long time. Physiological studies have confirmed the existence of three classes of cone photoreceptors, and of colour-opponent neurons that compare the signals from cones, but modern work has drawn attention to unexpected complexities of early organization: the proportions of cones of different types vary widely among individuals, without great effect on colour vision; the arrangement of different types of cones in the mosaic seems to be random, making it hard to optimize the connections to colour-opponent mechanisms; and new forms of colour-opponent mechanisms have recently been discovered. At a higher level, in the primary visual cortex, recent studies have revealed a simpler organization than had earlier been supposed, and in some respects have made it easier to reconcile physiological and perceptual findings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Color Perception / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells / physiology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology
  • Visual Pathways / physiology