Distinct neural populations carry signals from short-wave (S) cones. We used individual differences to test whether two types of pathways, those that receive excitatory input () and those that receive inhibitory input (), contribute independently to psychophysical performance. We also conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) to look for genetic correlates of the individual differences. Our psychophysical test was based on the Cambridge Color Test, but detection thresholds were measured separately for S-cone spatial increments and decrements. Our participants were 1060 healthy adults aged 16–40. Test–retest reliabilities for thresholds were good ( for S-cone increments, 0.67 for decrements and 0.73 for the average of the two). “Regression scores,” isolating variability unique to incremental or decremental sensitivity, were also reliable ( for increments and for decrements). The correlation between incremental and decremental thresholds was . No genetic markers reached genome-wide significance (). We identified 18 “suggestive” loci (). The significant test–retest reliabilities show stable individual differences in S-cone sensitivity in a normal adult population. Though a portion of the variance in sensitivity is shared between incremental and decremental sensitivity, over 26% of the variance is stable across individuals, but unique to increments or decrements, suggesting distinct neural substrates. Some of the variability in sensitivity is likely to be genetic. We note that four of the suggestive associations found in the GWAS are with genes that are involved in glucose metabolism or have been associated with diabetes.
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