If You Could See Through My Eyes
The Experience of Color Vision
Center for Learning Innovation
University of Minnesota Rochester
This directed case study explores the topic of color vision and its variations as experienced in humans. The case begins with a review of visual transduction from photons to recognition within the nervous system. The focus then shifts to an examination of genetic color vision deficiencies, a topic which is complicated by the fact that color vision is essentially an experienced phenomenon. Although the basic technical aspects of color vision can be grasped through the study of the activation of photoreceptors, variations in color vision are difficult to describe in terms other than differences in photoreceptor absorbency rates. In this case study, students explore the physiology, genetics, and evolution of color vision and how color vision deficiencies can be identified through real-world testing. The case is appropriate for use in courses that include an introductory level focus on physiology of special senses, including undergraduate anatomy and physiology, nursing, or a specialized undergraduate biology course, as well as appropriate honors high school classes.
- Outline the structure and function of photoreceptors.
- Describe the limits of color vision by examining absorbance spectra of photoreceptors.
- Extrapolate how color vision can be altered with alterations to genetic structure of photoreceptors and descriptions of color vision deficiencies.
- Integrate knowledge of color vision deficiencies with available testing procedures to develop questions that can ascertain if an individual suffers from color vision deficiencies.
- Theorize why color vision deficiencies persist in the population from an evolutionary standpoint.
KeywordsColor vision; photoreceptors; phototransduction; color; color blindness; color blind; color deficiency; protanopia; deuteranopia; tritanopia; photoreceptors
Educational LevelHigh school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Type / MethodsDirected, Discussion
Subject HeadingsBiology (General) | Physiology | Psychology | Nursing |
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The PowerPoint presentation below includes a set of optional figures for the instructor to project in class.
color_sight.pptx (~1.4 MB)
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The following video(s) are recommended for use in association with this case study.
A brief simulation of protanopia. Running time: 0:54 min. Produced by Carlos Hernandex Matas, 2011.
A brief simulation of deuteranopia. Running time: 0:54 min. Produced by Carlos Hernandex Matas, 2011.
A brief simulation of tritanopia. Running time: 1:44 min. Produced by Carlos Hernandex Matas, 2015.