Sussex Neuroscience

Dr Jenny Bosten

Jenny Bosten

Ecological strategies of colour vision

Human colour vision has developed to suit a particular visual niche. For example, the middle- and long-wavelength sensitive photopigments that are critical for distinguishing red and green colour differences evolved in old world primates about 30 million years ago, to allow them to detect ripe fruit on a background of foliage.

In the modern human population, there are a variety of common genetic polymorphisms of genes for the middle- and long-wavelength sensitive opsins that confer different colour apparatus (Sharpe et al. 1999), leading to anomalous trichromacy, variation in colour vision within the normal range, and putative human tetrachromacy (Jordan et al. 2010). What the selective pressure is that has maintained the polymorphisms in the population is an unanswered question.

The PhD project would use a variety of techniques including modeling of the colour visual system’s response to natural scenes, genetic analysis, and psychophysical experiments, to explore the ecological niches that may give each different phenotype the advantages that maintain it in the population. Another possible direction would be to investigate the genetic variation in OPN1SW and its functional significance. Such variation may lead to individual differences in the peak sensitivity of the short-wavelength sensitive cones, with consequences for colour vision that have not yet been explored.

Jenny Bosten’s lab uses psychophysical techniques to measure visual performance, analyses natural scenes, and investigates individual differences at a genetic level from DNA samples. Anna Franklin (co-supervisor) has expertise in colour, EEG, cross-cultural studies and developmental psychophysics.

Selected references

(For a full list of publications and more details about the lab, see Jenny Bosten's homepage.)

Regan B. C., Julliot C., Simmen B., Vienot F., Chrles-Dominique P. and Mollon J. D. (2001) “Fruits, foliage and the evolution of primate colour vision”, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B, 356, 229-283.
Jordan G., Deeb S., Bosten J. M. and Mollon J. D. (2010) “The dimensionality of color vision in carriers of anomalous trichromacy”, Journal of Vision, 10(12).
Sharpe L. T., Stockman A., Jägle, H. and Nathans, J. (1999) Opsin genes, cone photopigments, color vision and colorblindness. Chapter 1. In Gegenfurtner, K. and Sharpe, T. T. (eds), Color Vision: From Genes to Perception. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 3–52.