The effect of a moderate level of hypoxia on human color vision

Doc Ophthalmol. 1987 Jun;66(2):171-85. doi: 10.1007/BF00140454.


This study reports the effect of a moderate level of hypoxia on human color discimination. We found a generalized loss of color vision affecting both red-green and blue-yellow discrimination at an altitude of 12,000 feet. Although the residual color discrimination at this altitude was within age-matched, sea-level norms, a statistically significant increase over sea level error scores was measured on the Farnsworth-Munsell 100-Hue test and the Pickford-Nicolson anomaloscope. An analysis of psychophysical and electrophysiological studies indicates that hypoxia acts by depressing retinal ganglion cell activity and that it can affect photopic visual processes as well as scotopic vision. We conclude that studies evaluating man's visual performance at altitude must consider post-receptoral processes.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Color Perception / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Vision Tests