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  • Writer's pictureSinead Mackintosh

Colour Perception

So, you have probably heard of colour blindness before.

If not, here is a quick recap. Colour blindness is a genetic condition that affects the ability to distinguish specific colours. It is usually caused by an inherited genetic change that affects the photopigments in the cone cells of the eyes, which are responsible for detecting different colours of light. There are three types of cone cells that detect red, green, and blue light, respectively. In most cases of colour blindness, red or green cone cells are affected, leading to difficulty differentiating between red and green shades. This condition is more common in biological males than biological females because the gene for colour vision is on the X chromosome, and biological males have only one X chromosome (XY). In contrast, biological females have two (XX).

But have you heard of tetrachromacy?

It is a rare genetic condition in which a person has four types of cone cells in their eyes instead of the usual three. Having an extra type of cone allows these people to see more variations of colour. This condition is also caused by a genetic mutation on the X chromosome. And remember that because biological women have two X chromosomes, they are more likely to have tetrachromacy. However, not all individuals with the genetic mutation for tetrachromacy can perceive additional colours, as this also depends on factors such as the wiring of the brain and environmental influences.

To explain how cool this is, most people can see about a million different colours, people with colour blindness can see about 10 000 different colours and people with tetrachromacy can see about 100 million different colours!

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