Psychophysical measurement of spectral sensitivity and color vision in red-light-reared tree shrews (Tupaia belangeri)

Vision Res. 1991;31(10):1749-57. doi: 10.1016/0042-6989(91)90024-y.


The role of the spectral lighting environment on the post-natal development of spectral sensitivity and color vision was studied in tree shrews (Tupaia belangeri) that were born and reared to adulthood in cyclic red light. Normal tree shrews are dichromats, possessing short-wavelength-sensitive (SWS) and long-wavelength-sensitive (LWS) cone receptors and a small population of rods. Red-light-rearing (RLR) produced differential stimulation of the cone types by effectively eliminating photic stimulation of the SWS cones, without depriving the LWS cones. Spectral sensitivity and color vision were measured behaviorally for RLR shrews and normal shrews under different ambient light levels. Spectral sensitivity functions were deutan-like, exhibiting maxima at ca 450 and 550 nm and a minimum at 510 nm. No significant differences in spectral sensitivity were observed between RLR and control animals. Furthermore, all animals demonstrated deutan-type dichromatic color vision evidenced by their ability to discriminate monochromatic lights from equally-bright achromatic lights except for a "neutral point" near 505 nm. These results demonstrate that a population of functional SWS cones survived the lack of post-natal photic stimulation. However, RLR shrews differed from controls in that they were poorer at making chromatic/achromatic discriminations. While no severe disorganization of color vision was evident, the poorer discrimination displayed by the RLR animals is likely the result of changes in post-receptoral visual mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Color Perception / physiology*
  • Photoreceptor Cells / growth & development
  • Psychophysics
  • Sensory Deprivation / physiology
  • Tupaia