Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Rod 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


Visual abilities of the honey bee have been studied for more than 100 years, recently revealing unexpectedly sophisticated cognitive skills rivalling those of vertebrates. However, the physiological limits of the honey bee eye have been largely unaddressed and only studied in an unnatural, dark state. Using a bright display and intracellular recordings, we here systematically investigated the angular sensitivity across the light adapted eye of honey bee foragers. Angular sensitivity is a measure of photoreceptor receptive field size and thus small values indicate higher visual acuity. Our recordings reveal a fronto-ventral acute zone in which angular sensitivity falls below 1.9°, some 30% smaller than previously reported. By measuring receptor noise and responses to moving dark objects, we also obtained direct measures of the smallest features detectable by the retina. In the frontal eye, single photoreceptors respond to objects as small as 0.6° × 0.6°, with >99% reliability. This indicates that honey bee foragers possess significantly better resolution than previously reported or estimated behaviourally, and commonly assumed in modelling of bee acuity.

Concepts: Insect, Retina, Eye, Photoreceptor cell, Visual acuity, Honey bee, Receptive field, Rod cell


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


The systematic measurement of luminance thresholds during dark adaptation usually requires advanced optical equipment not available in most undergraduate classes. Here we describe an easy, inexpensive alternative that uses a printed grayscale to measure visual thresholds. Adaptation curves found with this method are comparable to those found with the technologically advanced tools in the standard literature and even show the shift from cone to rod vision at around 4-8 minutes. The exercise can furthermore be easily combined with a demonstration of the Purkinje shift (the different spectral sensitivity of the rod and cone systems) and of multi-sensory integration across vision, touch and proprioception. The lab allows students to collect, graph and analyze both qualitative and quantitative data. Student ratings of the activity are highly positive, even when compared to other visual neuroscience labs. The activity provides an effective and accessible tool for teaching several important neuroscience concepts, including retinal circuitry, spectral sensitivity, and multi-sensory integration.

Concepts: Retina, Eye, Visual perception, Qualitative research, Laboratory, Rod cell, Scotopic vision, Purkinje effect


Cryptochromes are a ubiquitous group of blue-light absorbing flavoproteins that in the mammalian retina have an important role in the circadian clock. In birds, cryptochrome 1a (Cry1a), localized in the UV/violet-sensitive S1 cone photoreceptors, is proposed to be the retinal receptor molecule of the light-dependent magnetic compass. The retinal localization of mammalian Cry1, homologue to avian Cry1a, is unknown, and it is open whether mammalian Cry1 is also involved in magnetic field sensing. To constrain the possible role of retinal Cry1, we immunohistochemically analysed 90 mammalian species across 48 families in 16 orders, using an antiserum against the Cry1 C-terminus that in birds labels only the photo-activated conformation. In the Carnivora families Canidae, Mustelidae and Ursidae, and in some Primates, Cry1 was consistently labeled in the outer segment of the shortwave-sensitive S1 cones. This finding would be compatible with a magnetoreceptive function of Cry1 in these taxa. In all other taxa, Cry1 was not detected by the antiserum that likely also in mammals labels the photo-activated conformation, although Western blots showed Cry1 in mouse retinal cell nuclei. We speculate that in the mouse and the other negative-tested mammals Cry1 is involved in circadian functions as a non-light-responsive protein.

Concepts: Protein, Retina, Eye, Photoreceptor cell, Rodent, Rod cell, Carnivora, Cryptochrome


Despite investigations for over 70 years, the absolute limits of human vision have remained unclear. Rod cells respond to individual photons, yet whether a single-photon incident on the eye can be perceived by a human subject has remained a fundamental open question. Here we report that humans can detect a single-photon incident on the cornea with a probability significantly above chance. This was achieved by implementing a combination of a psychophysics procedure with a quantum light source that can generate single-photon states of light. We further discover that the probability of reporting a single photon is modulated by the presence of an earlier photon, suggesting a priming process that temporarily enhances the effective gain of the visual system on the timescale of seconds.

Concepts: Photon, Quantum mechanics, Retina, Eye, Visual perception, Visual system, Book of Optics, Rod cell


The purpose of blinks is to keep the eyes hydrated and to protect them. Blinks are rarely noticed by the subject as blink-induced alterations of visual input are blanked out without jeopardizing the perception of visual continuity, features blinks share with saccades. Although not perceived, the blink-induced disconnection from the visual environment leads to a loss of information. Therefore there is critical need to minimize it. Here we demonstrate evidence for a new type of eye movement serving a distinct oculomotor demand, namely the resetting of eye torsion, likewise inevitably causing a loss of visual information. By integrating this eye movement into blinks, the inevitable down times of vision associated with each of the two behaviors are synchronized and the overall downtime minimized.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Retina, Eye, Visual perception, Visual system, Concepts in metaphysics, Rod 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


The molecular circadian clocks in the mammalian retina are locally synchronized by environmental light cycles independent of the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) in the brain. Unexpectedly, this entrainment does not require rods, cones, or melanopsin (OPN4), possibly suggesting the involvement of another retinal photopigment. Here, we show that the ex vivo mouse retinal rhythm is most sensitive to short-wavelength light but that this photoentrainment requires neither the short-wavelength-sensitive cone pigment [S-pigment or cone opsin (OPN1SW)] nor encephalopsin (OPN3). However, retinas lacking neuropsin (OPN5) fail to photoentrain, even though other visual functions appear largely normal. Initial evidence suggests that OPN5 is expressed in select retinal ganglion cells. Remarkably, the mouse corneal circadian rhythm is also photoentrainable ex vivo, and this photoentrainment likewise requires OPN5. Our findings reveal a light-sensing function for mammalian OPN5, until now an orphan opsin.

Concepts: Retina, Eye, Photoreceptor cell, G protein coupled receptors, Circadian rhythm, Rod cell, Photosensitive ganglion cell, Opsin


Flies have some of the most elaborate visual systems in the Insecta, often featuring large, sexually dimorphic eyes with specialized “bright zones” that may have a functional role during mate-seeking behavior. The fast visual system of flies is considered to be an adaptation in support of their advanced flight abilities. Here, we show that the immense processing speed of the flies' photoreceptors plays a crucial role in mate recognition.

Concepts: Insect, Sexual dimorphism, Photoreceptor cell, Visual perception, Visual system, Rod cell, Fly, Photosensitive ganglion cell