Scientists have discovered a woman with perhaps the most amazing, superhuman eyes ever, as she can recognize millions more colors than the rest of us.
After more than 25 years of searching, neuroscientists in the UK recently announced that they’ve discovered a woman who has an extra type of cone cell – the receptor cells that detect color – in her eyes.
She can see a whopping 99 million more colors than the rest of us, and belongs to a very small group of people with super-vision called “tetrachromats.”
The typical person (a trichromat) has three types of cone cells, which detect color. Each one enables us to distinguish around 100 shades. When you factor in all the combinations of the cone shells, trichromats can distinguish approximately 1 million different colors.
For people who are colorblind, only two of those cone cells work. This means they, along with almost all other mammals, can see around 10,000 shades and are classified as dichromats.
Two years ago, scientists discovered a doctor in northern England with four types of functioning cone cells. Identified as ‘cDa29,’ she is the first tetrachromat to be found, but she is not alone.
Scientists have dreamt up the existence of a tetrachromat since 1948 when Dutch scientists HL de Vries, who saw something in the eyes of people who are colorblind. He noticed that colorblind men only possess two normal cone cells and one mutant cone. The mothers and daughters of colorblind men had one mutant cone and three normal ones. This meant that they had four cone types.
The trouble was finding a woman who had all four types of cones that worked. Some estimate that 12% of the female population could be tetrachromats.
Gabriele Jordan from Newcastle University in the UK was the one who had formally worked alongside John Mollon of Cambridge University and tried a slightly different test to look for this super-vision.
From 25 women with a fourth type of cone cell Gabriele found cDa29 who differentiated the three different colored circles every time she sits in a dark room and looked into a light device as a test. She said :
“We now know tetrachromacy exists, But we don’t know what allows someone to become functionally tetrachromatic, when most four-coned women aren’t,”
Jordan, who is continuing her research, is still working on it and her research about tetrachromats is not published or peer reviewed yet.She is trying to answer the question about how cDa29 sees the world.
“This private perception is what everybody is curious about, I would love to see that,” Jordan said.
— X-Philosopher (@X_Philosophy) July 25, 2016
The reason other tetrachromats haven’t yet been discovered may be that most have no reason to use their fourth cone cell type. Much of our world is largely designed for us average trichromats, so tetrachromats have little use for their extra color abilities.
The range of colors experienced by tetrachromats can’t even be imagined by the rest of us, which is pretty trippy.