We measured chromatic discrimination under conditions where the target fields could be distinguished only by the ratio of excitation of the long- (L) and middle-wavelength (M) cones. The excitation level of the short-wavelength (S) cones was varied in the experiments, although for any given measurement the S-cone excitation was common to the two target fields and could not be directly used for discrimination. Adaptation was maintained by a steady neutral background metameric to Illuminant D65. Thresholds varied substantially and systematically with the S-cone level of the target probes, but in a complex way: when the ratio of cone excitation was low, an increase in S-cone excitation reduced the thresholds, but when the ratio was higher, an increase in S-cone excitation raised the thresholds. To account for the pattern of results, we postulate a neural channel that draws synergistic inputs from L and S cones and an opposed input from M cones. The proposed channel has a compressive response function and is most sensitive at the point set by the steady background.
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