The contrast sensitivity of human colour vision to red-green and blue-yellow chromatic gratings

J Physiol. 1985 Feb;359:381-400. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1985.sp015591.


A method of producing red-green and blue-yellow sinusoidal chromatic gratings is used which permits the correction of all chromatic aberrations. A quantitative criterion is adopted to choose the intensity match of the two colours in the stimulus: this is the intensity ratio at which contrast sensitivity for the chromatic grating differs most from the contrast sensitivity for a monochromatic luminance grating. Results show that this intensity match varies with spatial frequency and does not necessarily correspond to a luminance match between the colours. Contrast sensitivities to the chromatic gratings at the criterion intensity match are measured as a function of spatial frequency, using field sizes ranging from 2 to 23 deg. Both blue-yellow and red-green contrast sensitivity functions have similar low-pass characteristics, with no low-frequency attenuation even at low frequencies below 0.1 cycles/deg. These functions indicate that the limiting acuities based on red-green and blue-yellow colour discriminations are similar at 11 or 12 cycles/deg. Comparisons between contrast sensitivity functions for the chromatic and monochromatic gratings are made at the same mean luminances. Results show that, at low spatial frequencies below 0.5 cycles/deg, contrast sensitivity is greater to the chromatic gratings, consisting of two monochromatic gratings added in antiphase, than to either monochromatic grating alone. Above 0.5 cycles/deg, contrast sensitivity is greater to monochromatic than to chromatic gratings.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Color Perception / physiology*
  • Female
  • Form Perception / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Methods
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Spectrophotometry
  • Visual Acuity