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11112012-5 Describe your favorite outdoor place, your favorite outfit, your ideal bedroom. It’s likely that your descriptions—and the visions in your mind—include color. Color is used to attract and engage us. Color makes the world vibrant. Animals use color to attract mates, and to warn off predators. Color affects mood and conveys emotion, but it is highly subjective and nuanced.  Everyone sees color differently; your vision of ‘cobalt’ may be ‘turquoise’ to a friend. The 32 million Americans who are color blind see colors in very different ways. Some question whether ‘real’ colors even exist.

Last week, several researchers and inno11112012-2 vators announced research and products designed to improve vision for those with color deficiencies. Scientists from the University of Washington hope to receive permission to insert missing genes into a virus that is then introduced into the retina. The procedure has successfully changed color vision in monkeys. They hope humans might be next. There is an app for everything, including color blindness. New apps intensify colors for those with deficiencies. And, a new genetic test will soon be available to identify the type of color blindness a person has, opening up new possibilities for treatment.

This week, turn an eye toward your eyes. Learn more about what color is, and how and why the eye perceives (or does not perceive) color.

How do you See Color?

11112012-6 To begin to understand color blindness, first consider color.

Add to this information about color some information about the anatomy of the eye. Visit iKnow.net and travel within the human eye. Familiarize yourself with the anatomy of the human eye by clicking on each structure listed. Scroll down to review color theory and perception.  Then deepen your understanding of the functions of the eye by watching several short videos:  flight into the retina, the lens, and the synapse. Let Interactive-biology put this all together in one concise explanation of how the eye works.WebExhibits.org explores the nature of color. What is color? Be sure to move your cursor around the Renoir painting to ‘see’ the attributes of the painting.  What happens in the eye that allows us to see colors? Predict how genetic deficiencies in the eye structure might alter how people perceive color. How does the eye calculate color?11112012-4

But, is color perception only about rods and cones and light? Is something else at work as well? Do the words used to describe color matter? Does mood matter? Does gender matter? Various researchers strive to answer those questions. Watch Do You See What I See to discover what they have learned.

A World with Different Colors

Visit Archimedes Laboratory and read the definition of color deficiency, which colors are most affected, what causes color deficiency, and who is most affected. Read about the doctor who designed the test for color deficiency then scroll down and check out your color perception with 10 short tests. Move further down the page to discover what bothers colorblind people and how they compensate. Be sure to take the Farnsworth color arrangement test at the bottom of the page.11112012-3

There are different types of color deficiency. People with deutan deficiency, or green blindness, do not distinguish between greens and reds. Both greens and reds look grey. For people with protan deficiency, or red blindness, greens and reds also look grey. Colors that contain green or red are also affected: orange looks yellow, purple looks blue. Red-green color blindness is more common than tritan deficiency, or blue-yellow blindness. Have you ever wondered what the world looks like to someone who is color blind? Try seeing the world through a new lens with a color blindness simulation. Apply the normal, protan, and deutan tabs to each of the nine color thumbnails at the top of the page to see how the world looks to people with red-green color deficiencies. 

11112012-1 Hear one man’s thoughts on what it is like to be color blind. The short documentary No Such Thing as Color shares his vision. Because color is seen differently by everyone, color deficiency may not seem important. Why does color vision matter? Think of all the times in your daily life you refer to color for information: stop lights, cooking meat, choosing fruit. Think of all the times color enhances your daily experiences: planning an outfit, applying makeup, watching television, reading websites, making a Mother’s Day card, reading the Sunday comics.