We were interested in the question of how cones contribute to the detection of brightness, red–green, and blue–yellow. The linear combination of cone signals contributing to flicker detection was determined by fitting a plane to 64 points (colors) of equal heterochromatic flicker brightness. A small S-cone contribution to flicker brightness of similar amplitude in all five subjects was identified. The ratio of L- to M-cone contribution was found to vary considerably among subjects (1.7–4.1). Chromatic detection thresholds were determined for small patches in the isoluminant plane defined by flicker brightness. These stimuli were presented at an eccentricity of 40 arc min. By using color naming at the detection threshold, one can attribute different segments of the resulting detection ellipses to different chromatic mechanisms. Linear approximation of these segments provided an estimate for the contribution of the different cone types to the detection of red–green and blue–yellow. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that S cones contribute to the red–green mechanism with the same sign as that of the contribution from L cones. The blue–yellow mechanism very probably subtracts S-cone contrast from luminance contrast. The detection ellipse can be mapped into a circle in cone difference space. The base of this canonical transformation is a set of three cone fundamentals that differs from previously published estimates. Projecting the circle onto the three cone difference axes produces sinusoidal changes within the respective excitations. We propose that simultaneous sinusoidal changes of equal increment in the three cone difference excitations generate stimuli differing by equal saliency.
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