Visual Neuroscience

Chromatic detection and discrimination in the periphery: A postreceptoral loss of color sensitivity

JESSICA R.  NEWTON  a1 c1 and RHEA T.  ESKEW  JR. a1
a1 Psychology Department, Northeastern University, 125 Nightingale Hall, Boston

Article author query
newton jr   [Google Scholar] 
eskew rt   [Google Scholar] 


The peripheral visual field is marked by a deterioration in color sensitivity, sometimes attributed to the random wiring of midget bipolar cells to cone photoreceptors in the peripheral retina (Mullen, 1991; Mullen & Kingdom, 1996). Using psychophysical methods, we explored differences in the sensitivity of peripheral color mechanisms with detection and discrimination of 2-deg spots at 18-deg eccentricity, and find evidence for a postreceptoral locus for the observed loss in sensitivity. As shown before, observers' sensitivity to green was lower than to red in the periphery, although the magnitude of this effect differed across observers. These results suggest that the asymmetry in peripheral sensitivity occurs at a postreceptoral site, possibly a cortical one. In addition, noise masking was used to determine the cone inputs to the peripheral color mechanisms. The masked detection contours indicate that the red and green mechanisms in the periphery respond to the linear difference of approximately equally weighted L- and M-cone contrasts, just as they do in the fovea. Thus, if the midget retinal ganglion system is responsible for red/green color perception in the fovea, it is likely to be responsible at 18-deg eccentricity as well.

(Received February 4 2003)
(Accepted August 5 2003)

Key Words: Color mechanisms; Chromatic detection; Chromatic discrimination; Periphery.

c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Jessica R. Newton, MIT, Brain & Cognitive Sciences Department E25-235, 45 Carleton Street, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA. E-mail: