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Concept: Cone cell


We tested whether eye color influences perception of trustworthiness. Facial photographs of 40 female and 40 male students were rated for perceived trustworthiness. Eye color had a significant effect, the brown-eyed faces being perceived as more trustworthy than the blue-eyed ones. Geometric morphometrics, however, revealed significant correlations between eye color and face shape. Thus, face shape likewise had a significant effect on perceived trustworthiness but only for male faces, the effect for female faces not being significant. To determine whether perception of trustworthiness was being influenced primarily by eye color or by face shape, we recolored the eyes on the same male facial photos and repeated the test procedure. Eye color now had no effect on perceived trustworthiness. We concluded that although the brown-eyed faces were perceived as more trustworthy than the blue-eyed ones, it was not brown eye color per se that caused the stronger perception of trustworthiness but rather the facial features associated with brown eyes.

Concepts: Eye, Photoreceptor cell, Color, Qualia, Rod cell, Cone cell, Human eye, Eye color


One strategy to restore vision in retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration is cell replacement. Typically, patients lose vision when the outer retinal photoreceptor layer is lost, and so the therapeutic goal would be to restore vision at this stage of disease. It is not currently known if a degenerate retina lacking the outer nuclear layer of photoreceptor cells would allow the survival, maturation, and reconnection of replacement photoreceptors, as prior studies used hosts with a preexisting outer nuclear layer at the time of treatment. Here, using a murine model of severe human retinitis pigmentosa at a stage when no host rod cells remain, we show that transplanted rod precursors can reform an anatomically distinct and appropriately polarized outer nuclear layer. A trilaminar organization was returned to rd1 hosts that had only two retinal layers before treatment. The newly introduced precursors were able to resume their developmental program in the degenerate host niche to become mature rods with light-sensitive outer segments, reconnecting with host neurons downstream. Visual function, assayed in the same animals before and after transplantation, was restored in animals with zero rod function at baseline. These observations suggest that a cell therapy approach may reconstitute a light-sensitive cell layer de novo and hence repair a structurally damaged visual circuit. Rather than placing discrete photoreceptors among preexisting host outer retinal cells, total photoreceptor layer reconstruction may provide a clinically relevant model to investigate cell-based strategies for retinal repair.

Concepts: Retina, Eye, Photoreceptor cell, Visual system, Macular degeneration, Rod cell, Cone cell, Rhodopsin


All seals and cetaceans have lost at least one of two ancestral cone classes and should therefore be colour-blind. Nevertheless, earlier studies showed that these marine mammals can discriminate colours and a colour vision mechanism has been proposed which contrasts signals from cones and rods. However, these earlier studies underestimated the brightness discrimination abilities of these animals, so that they could have discriminated colours using brightness only. Using a psychophysical discrimination experiment, we showed that a harbour seal can solve a colour discrimination task by means of brightness discrimination alone. Performing a series of experiments in which two harbour seals had to discriminate the brightness of colours, we also found strong evidence for purely scotopic (rod-based) vision at light levels that lead to mesopic (rod-cone-based) vision in other mammals. This finding speaks against rod-cone-based colour vision in harbour seals. To test for colour-blindness, we used a cognitive approach involving a harbour seal trained to use a concept of same and different. We tested this seal with pairs of isoluminant stimuli that were either same or different in colour. If the seal had perceived colour, it would have responded to colour differences between stimuli. However, the seal responded with “same”, providing strong evidence for colour-blindness.

Concepts: Retina, Eye, Photoreceptor cell, Color, Color blindness, Color vision, Pinniped, Cone cell


Mammals receive light information through the eyes, which perform two major functions: image forming vision to see objects and non-image forming adaptation of physiology and behavior to light. Cone and rod photoreceptors form images and send the information via retinal ganglion cells to the brain for image reconstruction. In contrast, nonimage-forming photoresponses vary widely from adjustment of pupil diameter to adaptation of the circadian clock. nonimage-forming responses are mediated by retinal ganglion cells expressing the photopigment melanopsin. Melanopsin-expressing cells constitute 1-2% of retinal ganglion cells in the adult mammalian retina, are intrinsically photosensitive, and integrate photic information from rods and cones to control nonimage-forming adaptation. Action spectra of ipRGCs and of melanopsin photopigment peak around 480 nm blue light. Understanding melanopsin function lets us recognize considerable physiological effects of blue light, which is increasingly important in our modern society that uses light-emitting diode. Misalignment of circadian rhythmicity is observed in numerous conditions, including aging, and is thought to be involved in the development of age-related disorders, such as depression, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and cancer. The appropriate regulation of circadian rhythmicity by proper lighting is therefore essential. This perspective introduces the potential risks of excessive blue light for human health through circadian rhythm disruption and sleep deprivation. Knowing the positive and negative aspects, this study claims the importance of being exposed to light at optimal times and intensities during the day, based on the concept of the circadian clock, ultimately to improve quality of life to have a healthy and longer life.

Concepts: Sleep, Retina, Eye, Photoreceptor cell, Circadian rhythm, Rod cell, Cone cell, Photosensitive ganglion cell


Most vertebrates have a duplex retina comprising two photoreceptor types, rods for dim-light (scotopic) vision and cones for bright-light (photopic) and color vision. However, deep-sea fishes are only active in dim-light conditions; hence, most species have lost their cones in favor of a simplex retina composed exclusively of rods. Although the pearlsides, Maurolicus spp., have such a pure rod retina, their behavior is at odds with this simplex visual system. Contrary to other deep-sea fishes, pearlsides are mostly active during dusk and dawn close to the surface, where light levels are intermediate (twilight or mesopic) and require the use of both rod and cone photoreceptors. This study elucidates this paradox by demonstrating that the pearlside retina does not have rod photoreceptors only; instead, it is composed almost exclusively of transmuted cone photoreceptors. These transmuted cells combine the morphological characteristics of a rod photoreceptor with a cone opsin and a cone phototransduction cascade to form a unique photoreceptor type, a rod-like cone, specifically tuned to the light conditions of the pearlsides' habitat (blue-shifted light at mesopic intensities). Combining properties of both rods and cones into a single cell type, instead of using two photoreceptor types that do not function at their full potential under mesopic conditions, is likely to be the most efficient and economical solution to optimize visual performance. These results challenge the standing paradigm of the function and evolution of the vertebrate duplex retina and emphasize the need for a more comprehensive evaluation of visual systems in general.

Concepts: Retina, Eye, Photoreceptor cell, Visual perception, Visual system, Color, Rod cell, Cone cell


Color vision deficiency (color blindness) is an inherited genetic ocular disorder. While no cure for this disorder currently exists, several methods can be used to increase the color perception of those affected. One such method is the use of color filtering glasses which are based on Bragg filters. While these glasses are effective, they are high cost, bulky, and incompatible with other vision correction eyeglasses. In this work, a rhodamine derivative is incorporated in commercial contact lenses to filter out the specific wavelength bands (≈545-575 nm) to correct color vision blindness. The biocompatibility assessment of the dyed contact lenses in human corneal fibroblasts and human corneal epithelial cells shows no toxicity and cell viability remains at 99% after 72 h. This study demonstrates the potential of the dyed contact lenses in wavelength filtering and color vision deficiency management.

Concepts: Color, Cornea, Contact lens, Color blindness, Color vision, Cone cell


The results of early studies on colour vision in dogs led to the conclusion that chromatic cues are unimportant for dogs during their normal activities. Nevertheless, the canine retina possesses two cone types which provide at least the potential for colour vision. Recently, experiments controlling for the brightness information in visual stimuli demonstrated that dogs have the ability to perform chromatic discrimination. Here, we show that for eight previously untrained dogs colour proved to be more informative than brightness when choosing between visual stimuli differing both in brightness and chromaticity. Although brightness could have been used by the dogs in our experiments (unlike previous studies), it was not. Our results demonstrate that under natural photopic lighting conditions colour information may be predominant even for animals that possess only two spectral types of cone photoreceptors.

Concepts: Retina, Eye, Photoreceptor cell, Visual perception, Rod cell, Color blindness, Color vision, Cone cell


Congenital stationary night blindness (CSNB) is a non-progressive, clinically and genetically heterogeneous disease of impaired night vision. We report a naturally-occurring, stationary, autosomal recessive phenotype in beagle dogs with normal daylight vision but absent night vision. Affected dogs had normal retinas on clinical examination, but showed no detectable rod responses. They had “negative-type” mixed rod and cone responses in full-field ERGs. Their photopic long-flash ERGs had normal OFF-responses associated with severely reduced ON-responses. The phenotype is similar to the Schubert-Bornschein form of complete CSNB in humans. Homozygosity mapping ruled out most known CSNB candidates as well as CACNA2D4 and GNB3. Three remaining genes were excluded based on sequencing the open reading frame and intron-exon boundaries (RHO, NYX), causal to a different form of CSNB (RHO) or X-chromosome (NYX, CACNA1F) location. Among the genes expressed in the photoreceptors and their synaptic terminals, and mGluR6 cascade and modulators, reduced expression of GNAT1, CACNA2D4 and NYX was observed by qRT-PCR in both carrier (n = 2) and affected (n = 2) retinas whereas CACNA1F was down-regulated only in the affecteds. Retinal morphology revealed normal cellular layers and structure, and electron microscopy showed normal rod spherules and synaptic ribbons. No difference from normal was observed by immunohistochemistry (IHC) for antibodies labeling rods, cones and their presynaptic terminals. None of the retinas showed any sign of stress. Selected proteins of mGluR6 cascade and its modulators were examined by IHC and showed that PKCα weakly labeled the rod bipolar somata in the affected, but intensely labeled axonal terminals that appeared thickened and irregular. Dendritic terminals of ON-bipolar cells showed increased Goα labeling. Both PKCα and Goα labeled the more prominent bipolar dendrites that extended into the OPL in affected but not normal retinas. Interestingly, RGS11 showed no labeling in the affected retina. Our results indicate involvement of a yet unknown gene in this canine model of complete CSNB.

Concepts: Neuron, Action potential, Retina, Eye, Photoreceptor cell, Rod cell, Cone cell, X-linked congenital stationary night blindness


The presence of two spectrally different kinds of rod photoreceptors in amphibians has been hypothesized to enable purely rod-based colour vision at very low light levels. The hypothesis has never been properly tested, so we performed three behavioural experiments at different light intensities with toads (Bufo) and frogs (Rana) to determine the thresholds for colour discrimination. The thresholds of toads were different in mate choice and prey-catching tasks, suggesting that the differential sensitivities of different spectral cone types as well as task-specific factors set limits for the use of colour in these behavioural contexts. In neither task was there any indication of rod-based colour discrimination. By contrast, frogs performing phototactic jumping were able to distinguish blue from green light down to the absolute visual threshold, where vision relies only on rod signals. The remarkable sensitivity of this mechanism comparing signals from the two spectrally different rod types approaches theoretical limits set by photon fluctuations and intrinsic noise. Together, the results indicate that different pathways are involved in processing colour cues depending on the ecological relevance of this information for each task.This article is part of the themed issue ‘Vision in dim light’.

Concepts: Eye, Photoreceptor cell, Visual perception, Color, Theory, Color vision, Cone cell, Frog


Vertebrate ancestors had only cone-like photoreceptors. The duplex retina evolved in jawless vertebrates with the advent of highly photosensitive rod-like photoreceptors. Despite cones being the arbiters of high-resolution color vision, rods emerged as the dominant photoreceptor in mammals during a nocturnal phase early in their evolution. We investigated the evolutionary and developmental origins of rods in two divergent vertebrate retinas. In mice, we discovered genetic and epigenetic vestiges of short-wavelength cones in developing rods, and cell-lineage tracing validated the genesis of rods from S cones. Curiously, rods did not derive from S cones in zebrafish. Our study illuminates several questions regarding the evolution of duplex retina and supports the hypothesis that, in mammals, the S-cone lineage was recruited via the Maf-family transcription factor NRL to augment rod photoreceptors. We propose that this developmental mechanism allowed the adaptive exploitation of scotopic niches during the nocturnal bottleneck early in mammalian evolution.

Concepts: Genetics, Gene expression, Species, Retina, Eye, Photoreceptor cell, Rod cell, Cone cell