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Single Gene Gives Mice Three-Color Vision

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the colors-you-can't-see dept.

Biotech 184

maynard writes "A study in the peer-reviewed journal Science shows that mice transgenetically altered with a single human gene are then able to see in full tri-color vision. Mice without this alteration are normally colorblind. The scientists speculate that mammalian brains even from animals that have never evolved color vision are flexible enough to interpret new color-sense information with just the simple addition of new photoreceptors. Such a result is also indicated by a dominant X chromosome mutation that allows for quad-color vision in some women." A sidebar in the article includes a nice illustration of what two-color vs. three-color mice might perceive.

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Oblig. (2, Funny)

electrosoccertux (874415) | more than 7 years ago | (#18472843)

I, for one, welcome our new full-spectrum-observing mice overlords...

Re:Oblig. (1, Funny)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473051)

I, for another, will eek out a living in their service.

Re:Oblig. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18473153)

I, for one, welcome our new tetrachromate overladies!

-L

Re:Oblig. (2, Funny)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473587)

I had one but I can't beat yours.

Re:Oblig. (3, Funny)

Joebert (946227) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473749)

Here she comes !
Do you think she'll notice me ?

Re:Oblig. (1)

inviolet (797804) | more than 7 years ago | (#18474389)

I, for one, welcome our new tetrachromate overladies!

Actually, there is such a thing as a pentachromat [wikipedia.org] . She's female. And yes, she's a bitch. I have personally met her, fought her, and got my ass kicked.

Re:Oblig. (1)

NewKimAll (923422) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473717)

Are you also welcoming tetrachromat-spectrum-observing female overlords?
--
Waiting for the day they find the gene that allows us to see in ultra-violet

Re:Oblig. (2, Funny)

Eudial (590661) | more than 7 years ago | (#18474085)

I argue that the suitable Simpsons-quote would be "The goggles: They do nothing!"

FP (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18472879)

Mice get on my chimes anyway

Here is a picture of the modified mice (2, Funny)

JackMeyhoff (1070484) | more than 7 years ago | (#18472885)

Re:Here is a picture of the modified mice (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 7 years ago | (#18472905)

Which one is the modified one?

Re:Here is a picture of the modified mice (1)

Looce (1062620) | more than 7 years ago | (#18472913)

And this is where I point you to the title of the comment: "Here is a picture of the modified mice" ;)

Re:Here is a picture of the modified mice (1)

JackMeyhoff (1070484) | more than 7 years ago | (#18472995)

Perhaps he was thinking of MOOSE

GENETIC ALTERATIONS?! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18472949)

Oh no, frankenmice! Protest! Burn the company's CEO in effigy! Alert the coastguards! Weblog until you are blue in the face!

Re:GENETIC ALTERATIONS?! (1)

Miseph (979059) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473621)

Most bloggers I know are just blue in the balls...

Quad = 4?? (5, Funny)

blakmac (987934) | more than 7 years ago | (#18472961)

"Such a result is also indicated by a dominant X chromosome mutation that allows for quad-color vision in some women."

Are you kidding me? You know darn well that women can see at least 75 shades of off-white...

Re:Quad = 4?? (4, Funny)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473537)

Ahhhh...that's why my wife says that my clothing never matches!

Re:Quad = 4?? (1)

ImaLamer (260199) | more than 7 years ago | (#18474685)

Yes, I'm sure that's the reason.

Re:Quad = 4?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18474759)

You think thats bad? so does mine and im a goth!

Question I couldn't get from the article (4, Interesting)

reezle (239894) | more than 7 years ago | (#18472975)

Did they provide gene therapy to the mice which then gained color vision, or did they alter the mice before birth? Is it possible to insert genes into an adult organism and permanently change their DNA structure?

Re:Question I couldn't get from the article (1)

imbaczek (690596) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473083)

wikipedia to the rescue [wikipedia.org]

Note that inserting genes into a developed cell won't necesarilly have the same effect as inserting into a stem cell (IANA biologist though.)

Re:Question I couldn't get from the article (4, Informative)

jstomel (985001) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473173)

This gene would almost certainly have to be inserted before the eye develops, as it affects the type of "cone" cells that develop in the eye. Also, gene theropy into retinal is very difficult because (thank god) there are very few viruses that infect retinal cells.

Re:Question I couldn't get from the article (5, Informative)

inviolet (797804) | more than 7 years ago | (#18474437)

Also, gene theropy into retinal is very difficult because (thank god) there are very few viruses that infect retinal cells.

Don't thank god for that, thank natural selection. A virus that impairs its host's vision is not going to get much time to reproduce itself.

Re:Question I couldn't get from the article (5, Interesting)

Tatarize (682683) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473983)

What you really want to know is if they develop some of these genes to give you superpowers can you have them or do we need to genetically engineer ungrateful children to be able to whoop us.

The latter is the case. Your eyes are destined to suck forever. You can't see infrared or ultraviolet, you can't see like a hawk, nor can you get the lungs of a bird, the electro-sensing power of a platypus, ability to freeze solid like a toad, smell things as well as a dog, hold your breath like a whale. Even simply fixes like giving humans the ability to make their own vitamin C (every mammal has that save great apes and guinea pigs). No fixing the mammal eye so the all the blood and nerve don't run in front of the lens. No fixing the recurrent laryngeal nerve so that it goes from the brain straight to the larynx rather than looping around the aortic arch for no reason at all.

We could however, perhaps give such changes to our kids, those ungrateful little snot-filled twerps. You'll have to live being a social thin-haired ape who can play with fire and kill just about anything after making the tool for the job.

Re:Question I couldn't get from the article (1)

speculatrix (678524) | more than 7 years ago | (#18474467)

I agree and disagree; simply doing the gene therapy won't make your body magically regrow your retinas to be tetrochromatic. However, if you grew a clone of yourself using the modified DNA, you could then do a retina or eye transplant. If we also did the genetic mods to allow out bodies to regrow organs and limbs, then maybe you could simply remove part of the eye and let it regrow with the new feature.

Yes and no (4, Informative)

DrYak (748999) | more than 7 years ago | (#18474289)

Is it possible to insert genes into an adult organism and permanently change their DNA structure?


Yes.
It depends off your target site, but yes it is possible.
- You can replace bone marrow (remove a mutated one that led to cancer, and put another one (given from a relative) that is exempt of the broken gene that lead to the cancer). As you are modifying stem cells (blood cells precursors) the modification is rather permanent. And as the newly produced white blood cells are always re-trained after creation they won't consider your body as foreign so you won't have immune system rejection (graft vs. hosts in this case). And as a bonus, because bone marrow cells have homing capabilities, they're as easy as a blood transfer to inject. But the problem is that, during the time between when you radiated the old marrow to kill the cancer and when the newly injected one has finished recreating white cells, there's a window during which the organism is defenseless against infections.
- Viruses are small things that basically work by injecting their genetic information (DNA or RNA) inside a host cell. Scientist can assemble small virus like things that use the virus shell and thus are able to inject their material, but inside they contain the gene you need to add for the therapy. As far as I've heard there were attempt to use such a system to treat mucoviscidosis (by injecting a gene to help produce working chloride channels). It is administered as a spray. The problems are (beside the high cost of such a method) that the spray only reach the supperficial layer of cells in the bronchus. These are differenciated cells that don't multiply anymore, they only do their work until they die off and fall out. The precursors are deeper and not affected by the therapy. Thus the effects aren't permanent. Plus, after some time the hosts immune system ends up discovering those modified virus and/or infected cells, considers them as foreign and develops antibodies against them. Thus the therapy gets ineffective after some times. Thus the whole idea was scrped and now we mostly use drugs that are cheaper, makes the cells work using the gene they already had before (other ion channels - carbocystein) or directly dilutes the secretions (acetylcystein), and whose effect doesn't diminish with time (thus they are much more effective at reducing the speed of degradations of lungs and buying time before lung transplantation gets necessary).

Did they provide gene therapy to the mice which then gained color vision, or did they alter the mice before birth?


No.
Transgenic mice = before birth gene modification.
For the mutation to work, it has to happen /before/ the brain and the retina gets wired. The colour perception capabilities develops when the nervous fibres grow and connect to different population of receptors.
You can't 'cure' colour-blindness with gene therapy alone.

Technically speaking, there are virus that can infect retina before birth. But they would be much more difficult and expensive to produce, plus they can have bad side effects, and they are harder to control if they did inject their genes. Also the whole stuff is less ethical for the poor mice. Right now, you modify the mice at the stage of either zygote (1 single cell) or not-yet feconded gamete. You let the zygote do a couple of division, you get one of the dozen cell and check it the gene is still in place. If it is, you implant the stuff in a mother mouse. With the virus way, you have to inject the virus into a mother mouse while she still carries the baby mice (and hope that there won't be too much side effects - inflamation and such - for the mother or the mice she carries), then once the baby mice are born, you have to screen them to see which one carry the new gene (and has them into the eyes. The virus can target several organs, and won't necessarily infect the mice's eyes. I don't know, but maybe removing one of the eyes could be the only solution. Not very nice to mice) and then you may end up with several unusable mice. (That you can't use as control either because they were still exposed to the virus).

So, the transgenic mice is the best way to go, both for the scientist and their mice.

True colour (1, Interesting)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#18472981)

I had my first taste of this recently.

We live in a colour society and think when we point a camera at a target and click we take a faithful picture of it.
I was wrong.

I have pictures taken from a recent concert where the camera saw one colour (blue) but the actual colour was violet, it was strange holding it up and seeing it filtered then moving it out of the way to see the real colour.

does anyone know if there are such limitations with original developed camera film, or is it just not noticed?

Re:True colour (2, Interesting)

Jott42 (702470) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473077)

Most definitly. No color reproduction technology in existence has the capability of reproducing all the colours that the human can experience. (i.e. the Gamut, nice reading in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamut [wikipedia.org] )

Only a matter of time (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473145)

It's only a matter of time before someone invents an inexpensive camera that can do a spectral analysis on each pixel, including near-infrared and long ultraviolet wavelengths.

Take that and combine it with a mathematical model of how the human eye sees color and a model of your paper or output device, and you can make a very faithful reproduction, within the limits of the paper or output device of course.

This technology can help normal people see the world as a color-blind person would, which will help industrial designers make sure the color-blind see everything that's important to see, such as the difference between a red "danger" light and a green "okay" light.

Re:Only a matter of time (1)

sugar and acid (88555) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473363)

Well you can do it with todays technology. Simply have an imaging fiber bundle, with each fiber pixel feeding into a photodiode or ccd array spectrometer. This is very expensive but doable. As for getting this cheap, well that's a different story as the gain in accuracy is pretty minimal for most consumer applications but for some scientific applications it has a real benifit.

Re:Only a matter of time (1)

Jott42 (702470) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473653)

That only leaves the reproduction part: not (AFAIK) possible in print, in theory possible with luminous displays, but extremely expensive...

Re:Only a matter of time (1)

Eternauta3k (680157) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473825)

you can make a very faithful reproduction, within the limits of the paper or output device of course.
It's not that easy. If you're in a room with incandescent lighting, you see a white piece of paper (which is tinted yellow by the lights) as white. However, if you look at a picture of that paper without white-balancing, you'll say "why is it yellow?"

Re:True colour (2, Insightful)

grumbel (592662) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473181)

The fun part is that even a perfect reproduction of what a human can see would still be only a tiny minority of what is actually there. This is most easily demonstrated with a TV remote and a digicam, which registers the IR light, which the human eye doesn't. Other side effects is that the human eye will register certain very different mixtures of wavelength as the exact same color, while a digicam will register them as two different ones.

Re:True colour (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#18474003)

So where are my multi spectrum contact lenses already? I figure they will be one sure sign that we are living in the future.

Re:True colour (4, Interesting)

19thNervousBreakdown (768619) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473179)

Violet is especially tricky. Its wavelength is shorter than blue, but in addition to stimulating your blue cones, your red cones are also slightly sensitive to it. The camera, however, sees the pure, very deep blue. Then, when it goes to display it on the LCD, it only turns on the blue pixel instead of the blue and a little red.

Another thing that people don't generally notice is that the RGB pixels or phosphors don't match up perfectly with everyone's cones. The only way I can think of to have faithful color representation is to have one "pixel" on both camera and display that is sensitive to and can emit any visible frequency of light, with perfectly flat response. IOW, maybe flying AI-controlled cars will have a camera/display like that.

Re:True colour (5, Informative)

blueish yellow (838971) | more than 7 years ago | (#18474219)

Violet is especially tricky. Its wavelength is shorter than blue, but in addition to stimulating your blue cones, your red cones are also slightly sensitive to it.

This doesn't make any sense. Red cones are not sensitive to blue light. Here is a diagram [utah.edu] showing the sensitivities of of the three cones (S, M, and L or Blue, Green and Red) in our retina whose signals combine to create color.

Our perception of color comes from the combination and comparison of the stimulation of three different cones, each maximally sensitive to different wavelengths. The output of the cones gets combined in what are called opponent pathways, one is Red-Green, and the other is Blue-yellow. The Red-Green pathway compares the output of the Red and Green cones and the Blue-yellow pathway compares the output of the blue cone with the sum of the red and green cones. This is why you will never see a color that is reddish-green or blueish-yellow (see nick) at least in the additive sense that red+blue=violet and yellow+blue+green.

So why does extremely short wavelength light appear to contain a reddish component? I don't believe that anyone knows the answer to that yet. But the hypothesis is that somewhere along the path from cone to cortex the input from a blue cone and red cone combine which turns our perception of an extremely short wavelength light into a combination of short wavelength light (blue) and extremely long wavelength light (red). So our sensation of color becomes a continuum that loops back on itself as opposed to our sense of pitch (which is also frequency or wavelength).

Interestingly people who have had their lenses removed are somewhat able to perceive ultraviolet light. This is because the lens ordinarily blocks UV light and blue cones are sensitive to UV light but very little ever penetrates to the retina normally. Apparently they see it as lilac.

Many mammals, fish, birds, insects, and reptiles (basically everyone except us) are able to see UV light as well. It's a good that we can't for two reason. One is that there is more chromatic aberration at shorter wavelengths. Basically blue light bends more than red light. This makes focusing more difficult. Also, more importantly, UV light damages DNA which is a very, very, bad thing. This [handprint.com] is a good resource for learning more.

Re:True colour (1)

Josef Meixner (1020161) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473859)

Have you checked the images on a screen? My cameras display also has big problems displaying violet, but it captures it ok. On a normal computer screen it is violet, but the tiny display on the camera seems to have a big problem with blue and especially violet and so it looks much too blue. I therefore don't use it anymore to decide if the color is right and just trust my experience.

Re:True colour (1)

CrimsonScythe (876496) | more than 7 years ago | (#18474781)

I had my first taste of this recently.

Wait a minute... You eat gene modified mice?

possible use in humans? (5, Interesting)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 7 years ago | (#18472987)

is it possible to genetically alter humans to make them tetrachromats, thus making them able to see UV like fishes and birds do?

Re:possible use in humans? (1)

maeka (518272) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473201)

If humans were simply given sensors for UV, would that be enough?
Can the human eye focus UV light, or would the ability to perceive it simply add more noise and glare?

Re:possible use in humans? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18473241)

The unaltered human retina can see UV light. It's the lens that is UV-opaque. Early artificial lenses didn't match the UV-opacity, and so there was a bunch of pensioners with ultra-vision. :-)

Re:possible use in humans? (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473465)

You don't need UV-sensitive cones to be a tetrachromat. You just need four kinds of cones.

Re:possible use in humans? (1)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473631)

No, because corneas and lenses block most of the UV spectrum anyway.

Re:possible use in humans? (1)

DerangedAlchemist (995856) | more than 7 years ago | (#18474477)

It probably is possible. It might be easier to try to replace the gene for blue-light cones with cones from rats (another mammal). Rat cones for blue light are sensitive to a shorter wavelength than humans, so they can see some UV. A person with this would see a greater color range (which makes some plain looking flowers look very pretty. Bees also tend to see UV.)

Human tetrochromats do not see UV (1)

xilmaril (573709) | more than 7 years ago | (#18474531)

Perhaps, if a human could be genetically altered to have a type of cone in their eyes which received UV light. All known tetrochromats, as discussed in this article, however, have a 4th cone able to receive light somewhere between the red and green frequencies. That allows them to perceive the normal human colourband in much greater detail than I can, but they can't see in UV.

More importantly, they can't see in IR. To me, having heat vision would be way cooler.

Could people handle four-color vision? (1)

catbutt (469582) | more than 7 years ago | (#18472993)

That'd be pretty neat. Except that they'd never be able to tell the rest of us what it is like.

Re:Could people handle four-color vision? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18473203)

Forget about not reading the article, you didn't even read the whole summary.

Yes, people (more specifically: women) exist with four-color vision and they do just fine.

Re:Could people handle four-color vision? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#18474023)

Once you have the four color people, do something to take one of the colors away.

Re:Could people handle four-color vision? (1)

rubberchickenboy (1044950) | more than 7 years ago | (#18474081)

That'd be pretty neat. Except that they'd never be able to tell the rest of us what it is like.

You mean like how writers can't tell us what it's like to go on an African safari, or train to be an astronaut, or climb Everest?

Re:Could people handle four-color vision? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18474139)

I've both read about and done some pretty amazing things.

In my experience, in the areas where the two overlap, the writing has not really conveyed anything remotely like the reality.

This is not to diminish the accomplishments of writers; they do excellent work with poor tools, but in the end reading about these things is an extremely poor substitute. If a great writer can't even truly capture the amazement of something relatively accessible like circling up to cloudbase in a thermal with another glider just a couple hundred feet off your wingtip, how are they going to capture an experience that we are literally physically incapable of having?

Re:Could people handle four-color vision? (1)

belg4mit (152620) | more than 7 years ago | (#18474159)

No, probably more like a synaesthetic describing what it's like to taste blue or hear cinnamon.

Re:Could people handle four-color vision? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18474173)

No. Like telling a red-green colour blind person what the difference between red and green is. Or, hell describing red in the first place.

Colour perception is totally subjective.

I for one... (0, Redundant)

spammeister (586331) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473041)

Welcome our new 100-million color-seeing overlordesses.

Nothing for you to see here (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18473073)

Move along.

Martian colours (4, Interesting)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473075)

One issue I find interesting in this context is the guy who was colour-blind (that is, he couldn't differentiate colours in certain parts of the spectrum). This guy had synesthaesia [wikipedia.org] , and although he couldn't physically see certain colours, he could experience them through his synesthaesia. He referred to them as "Martian colours".

The interesting implication here is that the GM mice's brains apparently developed with the ability to process the new colours. It would be fair to assume that ordinary mice's brains did not even contain the "concept" or "perception" of red hardwired in, since what would the point be?

Thus, if the converse is true, and human brains develop the same way as mice's, it could be assumed that the brains of people with the *physical* inability to detect certain colours from birth would never develop the mental concept/sensation of those colours. (*) But then, now does this explain "Martian colours"?

(*) (If you're having trouble understanding what I mean, try to imagine what ultraviolet "looks" like. Darklight (UV lamp) special effects don't count; that's *visible* light produced when UV hits special fluorescing material. And you can't "cheat" by imagining in terms of false colours (since that, by definition, is *converting* UV to visible-range colours). No, I want you to try to imagine what colour actual UV light would look like... and you'll fail because you've never directly seen UV light, and the concept isn't wired into your brain).

Re:Martian colours (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18473127)

Quit with your synesthaesia, if his photoreceptors are only capable of picking up a greatly limited spectrum of colors there's no magical 6th sense which will tell him what the other colors are.

Re:Martian colours (2, Informative)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473191)

Quit with your synesthaesia, if his photoreceptors are only capable of picking up a greatly limited spectrum of colors there's no magical 6th sense which will tell him what the other colors are.
That's not what I said.

Synesthaesia is the blending of senses, such that (e.g.) hearing a certain sound may trigger the sensation of taste or colour. In this case, the guy couldn't actually see the "missing" colours (via his eyes) at all. Yet he could "experience" the sensation of those colours via his synesthaesia.

Seeing infrared and X-ray (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473237)

I don't know about "seeing" but most people can "feel" near-infrared and I can feel what I presume are X-rays when staring at a defective CRT monitor.

The former feels warm, the latter feels like pain on my face and in my eyes. Needless to say I don't recommend you go out and verify the X-Ray test for yourself.

Some blind people who still have eyes can detect daylight and dark cycles without being consciously aware of it. Studies have shown that the human biological clock isn't reset properly by people whose eyes have been removed or damaged in certain ways.

Re:Martian colours (1)

19thNervousBreakdown (768619) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473255)

The simple explanation, that doesn't require hardwiring colors into the brain (which raises extremely tricky questions with both your synesthaesia guy and your mouse), is that the brain, or even eye, which does a surprising amount of visual processing, recombines the individual cone information it gets into at least some approximation of a full spectrum

Re:Martian colours (1)

David_Shultz (750615) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473339)

One issue I find interesting in this context is the guy who was colour-blind (that is, he couldn't differentiate colours in certain parts of the spectrum). This guy had synesthaesia, and although he couldn't physically see certain colours, he could experience them through his synesthaesia. He referred to them as "Martian colours".

If he couldn't differentiate colours then how could he be said to be "experiencing colours" (albeit through synesthaesia) -if he was experiencing the colours in any non-random way then he should be able to differentiate them, and if it was random, then we are without question talking about some unorganized and unwanted crosstalk between brain areas, and not an experience of colours. Unless I have misread you somewhere.

It would be fair to assume that ordinary mice's brains did not even contain the "concept" or "perception" of red hardwired in, since what would the point be?

I think what you're suggesting is that colour concepts (or more accurately colour qualia -the particular experience of viewing a particular colour) are developed on the fly given the sensory stimulus (ie give the mice colour receptors and they will learn how to see colours). I agree with you. I think the article makes this point same -the research demonstrates the flexibility of brains -even in mice- of dealing with different types of information. Lots of research demonstrates this (fascinating) point, but we have yet to develop a generalized theory of cognition which accounts for it. Another example is using the tongue for sensory input -the tongue has very many sensors, and you can use the tongue as a USB port -just wire up a webcam to send its data to the tongue, and you can give vision to a blind person (after a little bit of training).

But then, now does this explain "Martian colours"?

I don't think I have enough information on the particular case you mentioned to answer your question properly. Most importantly, I don't know whether the person in question was able to demonstrate that his "martian colours" actually enabled him to discriminate between objects of different colour, or if what he was experiencing was simply neural noise. However, I can try to answer your question if we talk about the more general synesthaesia instead of this particular case. First of all, its worth noting that synesthaesia is a disorder, even though sometimes its sufferers are endowed with special abilities such as enhanced recall. What is going on is unwanted crosstalk between normally unrelated brain areas. So for example, someone might have crosstalk between an area normally dealing with quantity and an area normally dealing with colour -so they experience numbers as colour. What is happening -I think- is that colour areas of the brain are being recruited for additional processing from the math area (to use that case as an example). Because of general adaptability of the brain (as evidenced by the tri-colour mice and USB tongue) the information is actually processed properly by the wrong brain area. More processing power = better memory, which we see. The only interesting question that remains is the qualia -why should numbers be experienced differently just because they are being processed somewhere else in the brain? I suppose the only simple answer that can be given to this (without going into the much more cumbersome philosophical debate of why we should experience anything at all) is that different areas of the brain are fundamentally and intrinsically differentiated in the way they organize and interpret that data. Perhaps our colour processing area is intrisically designed to create a 3d worldmap on the fly, and our number area is intrinsically designed to contemplate quantity, etc. Thus, those with the disorder that I mentioned would experience numbers as 3-dimensional objects, which is what those with the disorder tell us the experience is like.

Re:Martian colours (1)

Epistax (544591) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473575)

The brain is really screwy. If I see a vehicle, or anything of an obvious color, and I am not looking directly at it, while I know what color it was, I cannot connect it to the word. It feels like when you just can't remember the word for something. It's kind of fun to play with and almost 100% reliable. In this case I can see the color, and I can differentiate it, however not with my speech.

Interestingly enough (to me) if the color on the edge of my vision is a significant light source, say, an LED in a dark room, I have no problem identifying the color by name. Now I'm willing to accept that I am screwed up on many levels, but I'd wager a lot of people actually are the same way, just they never noticed or put much thought into it.

Oh and by the way I have to type the word "enemas" below so that slashdot knows I'm not a bot.

Re:Martian colours (3, Interesting)

toonerh (518351) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473469)

The occipital lobe of the brain (visual processing) - even in adults - can retrain itself to flip the view after wearing inverting glasses, ignore the distortion from "progressive" glasses (for old people like me) and quickly compensate for different colored lighting.

It seems quite possible a mouse's brain could classify groups of cones, especially since they would be obvious from birth on.

Re:Martian colours (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473485)

I think the brain will come up with a concept for whatever input it's getting. I don't think it matter if the eye got one or three or seven different kinds of receptors, it would make them up as needed. The difference is really whether the input is shot, or the link somewhere between input and output is shot. If we look at people that are red-green colorblind, are 1/3rd of their receptors dead? No, they fire off as usual. It's the backend that doesn't differentiate them, but they could detect colors in some other way, e.g. Martian colors. It's another thing if you've been blind from birth, if your eye nerve has been cut off from birth. No input means no concept.

Nobody really knows what we see as color, I mean two people might look at a color chart and agree but it doesn't mean my mental image equals theirs. I don't have a problem imagining that there could be room for other colors in my mental image, different from any current ones. Then we could look at a color chart and say "Yep, that's UV". But in order to do that, I need to have a physical input to link it up to. Otherwise I can make up any mental imagine I want and say "I see UV as violet, only violetter" but it has no meaning to you or anyone else or even myself, since I can't tell if that's true or not.

Re:Martian colours (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#18474239)

I bet if you took five or six pigments and then made two colors by mixing them, and took two people and said, make something between those two colors using those pigments, that even though they wouldn't end up with the 'same' thing, it would be real similar.

The 'between' is probably influenced by their experiences, but if they end up with something similar, one reasonable explanation is that their 'experience' related to seeing a color is similar.

Re:Martian colours (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18473595)

The interesting implication here is that the GM mice's brains apparently developed with the ability to process the new colours. It would be fair to assume that ordinary mice's brains did not even contain the "concept" or "perception" of red hardwired in, since what would the point be?

A color perception that changes partway through life also isn't unknown among transexuals who go from male to female with long term female hormone replacement therapy. Some forms of colorblindness appear hormone dependent, and some people who were genetically males with red/green colorblindness not only pass colorblindness tests for normal color vision after HRT that they once failed, but appear to have full color vision and draw and paint with color as well as anyone else with normal vision. One my my mom's colleagues who transitioned at work found this out, but couldn't remember exactly when she gained normal color vision, as it happened gradually.

Whether or not the specific people this happens to may have had 12 years with normal color vision before their original male puberty, I don't know, but many children are detectably colorblind before puberty.

Re:Martian colours (1)

clyde_cadiddlehopper (1052112) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473693)

I know that our brains can process near-UV wavelengths.

I had the cataract surgery in one eye. This involved ultrasonic emulsification and removal of the crystallized contents of the capsule of the lens ... the capsule now contains salt water. Near-UV wavelengths that were previously filtered can now pass to the retina in that eye.

The brain adapted instantly. Black lights are directly visible. Many flowers show up as an intense purple.

Re:Martian colours (1)

DerangedAlchemist (995856) | more than 7 years ago | (#18474729)

The interesting implication here is that the GM mice's brains apparently developed with the ability to process the new colours. It would be fair to assume that ordinary mice's brains did not even contain the "concept" or "perception" of red hardwired in, since what would the point be?

Thus, if the converse is true, and human brains develop the same way as mice's, it could be assumed that the brains of people with the *physical* inability to detect certain colours from birth would never develop the mental concept/sensation of those colours. (*) But then, now does this explain "Martian colours"?
I don't know about these 'martian colours' but from what I understand of normal colour blind people, they really don't have a concept of the what the other colors are. Some colours that look different to us, look exactly the same to them. And from the article, some women have 4 types of cones and can see a greater range of colour than the rest of us in a very similar way.
It's not that surprising that mouse brains were this adaptive though because many reptiles and fish have 4 or 5 different cones. At some point our great ape ancestors had to do this too, to get out of the red-green colour-blind state of most mammals.
There might be important developmental periods though. Maybe an adult never would be able to make sense of the new colours. Experiments with cats found that the ability to percieve horizontal or vertical lines required exposure during early development. Cats raised in rooms without horizontal lines could not 'see' the edge of a table as adults.

you cant believe your eyes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18473081)

you cant believe your eyes

everything to see here please move along

Still no proof of 'full' spectrum vision (4, Interesting)

nietsch (112711) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473085)

Although their GM mouse made M and L type cones in their retinas, it is still not clear if what they reacted to was only a change in intensity, or if they could see a true difference between the two colors. Normal mouse are essentially colorblind in that region of the spectrum, red triggers the M receptor, but not very much, so you need a brighter red light to stimulate the M receptor equally as greenish light. Since you need a very good control, the test setup was such that normal could not see a difference between the red and green light. Their GM mouse were much more sensitive to red, so to them the red light must have had a much brighter intensity. But that does not mean their brains had adapted themselves to differentiating between red and green light. To test that you would have to measure the sensitivity of the new red receptor and adjust your intensity to that so that the only difference is in the color, not the intensity. The problem offcourse is that you cannot do that same experiment with normal mouse which have a different red sensitivity, and no control == bad science.
So their claim that the GMs mouses brain really processed the red light signal different from the green might be a bit over the top.

(hmm thinking about it, if the GM mouse cannot discern between red and green, there might be a certain redlight intensity where their scores would drop significantly, while the controls would score better. If you cannot find that, my hypothesis is wrong and their claim is right. Now lets see if I can find if they did that test...)

How full is full spectrum? (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473265)

Now if we could sense from DC all the way up to gamma rays and beyond...

Re:How full is full spectrum? (2, Funny)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473439)

We can, if the intensity is high enough.

Re:How full is full spectrum? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#18474257)

Looks like burning!

Re:Still no proof of 'full' spectrum vision (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18473415)

>> the test setup was such that normal could not see a difference between the red and green light. Good point. To discriminate color, as opposed to brightness effects, you need to control for the intensity of the lights. But in reading the details of the experiment, that is exactly what they did. In the Science article, it says they presented a series of 3 light panels. Two of the lights were the same color (wavelength) while the third panel was a different color. This third panel was associated with soy milk. They cycled through a variety of different intensities for all panels and changed the position of the third panel. Only the heterozygous females with both the red and the green opsin could make chromatic discrimination and they chose the correct panel associated with the soy milk about 80% of the time. Normal color with a single M opsin got the correct answer 33% of the time - which is chance. >>The problem offcourse is that you cannot do that same experiment with normal mouse which have a different red sensitivity, and no control == bad science. Yes, they tested that too. The female homozygous red opsin mice were tested under the same conditions. These mice have a different red sensitivity than wildtype mice with only the homozygous green opsin. The homozygous red mice could not make red-green discrimination.

Re:Still no proof of 'full' spectrum vision (3, Insightful)

DeadCatX2 (950953) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473569)

We label as red the neuro-signal which is a lot of activation by the L cone, and almost no activation of the M or S cones.

So, you can't even say that what we see as "red" is actually red at all. When a certain wavelength of light hits a bunch of cones, they each send their own response to that stream of photons to the brain, encoded as an SML signal, so to speak, and red is just some specific SML signal. Our brain then interprets the S, M, and L information and composes an "image" of the color. A lot of L and a little bit of M and S looks like red.

So, if the M and L cones are processed by the same neuro-circuits, then yes, they just saw an increase in intensity. Stimulation of an M or L cone would cause the same area of the brain to respond, and since red is more towards L, then that area of the brain would see more activity than it normally does in the non-GM mice, assuming M and L signals activate the same neurons.

However, if the M and L cone data are processed in different areas, then I would believe that they indeed see different colors.

Human's Have UV Cones Like Birds? (1)

toonerh (518351) | more than 7 years ago | (#18474723)

Some researchers think human's are "blocked tetrachromats" [4colorvision.com] . The fourth group of cones in this case is in the near ultra-violet, not refining green, yellow and red. Further, the lens of a normal human eye absorbs those UV wavelengths so strongly that the UV cones mostly see dark. Only when the lens is removed, as cataract surgery, are the UV cones activated.

I don't know how accepted this theory is, plus current physiology can't fully map the nerves of the retina to the brain.

I'm willing to pay big bucks for mouse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18473133)

I'm willing to pay big bucks for mouse, if they can put a gene in those mouse and make them clean up the house,
wash the dishes, mowed the lawn.

more colors (1)

alphamugwump (918799) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473161)

I wonder if they will be able to do a similar thing to humans so that we can see in four or more colors. Just imagine how much it would screw up graphics programmers and monitor manufacturers if they had to add a UV channel. Fortunately, people serious about color (like paint manufacturers) consider the full spectrum. And fashion changes so quickly anyway that it wouldn't make a difference at all there.

But just think how interesting kindergarden colorimetry would get. What do you get when you mix ultra-blue and magenta? Quick, figure it out without using a piece of paper.

Re:more colors (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473501)

> Fortunately, people serious about color (like paint manufacturers) consider the full
> spectrum.

Please go and read a good article on color vision.

Re:more colors (1)

alphamugwump (918799) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473925)

If you don't tell me what I got wrong, how am I going to know you're not just making stuff up, or wrong yourself? You didn't link to anything either.

Besides, it isn't really that complicated. Rods and cones have response curves. Paint has a reflectance function. The color of the incident light is described by a curve. The response in each channel is just the dot product of the curves. The hard part is describing how the brain perceives different colors.

What part of that is wrong?

Re:more colors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18473563)

Ah, you young whipper-snappers. Back in the day, we had what was known as "CGA" graphics adapters for computers...this was a BIG advance over monochromes...It allowed programming in white, black, magenta, and cyan. Now THAT was an advance in computer graphics! So, four colour computer programming is old hat (at least for us old-timers!!)

Re:more colors (1)

spazekaat (991287) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473745)

Just imagine how much it would screw up graphics programmers and monitor manufacturers if they had to add a UV channel.


Won't happen. Can you imagine the lawsuits that would result if it was proven that the monitor's UV channel caused skin cancer ?
The thought of having to use sunblock to use a computer....YECHH !!!!!

Commence with the "new overload" jokes (1)

naoursla (99850) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473193)

And now it is the time on slashdot when we dance.

Secret of NIMH (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18473199)

So that's why Nicodemus' eyes glowed...

Colorblind posters wanted (1, Interesting)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473275)

What do those graphics look like to you?

Re:Colorblind posters wanted (1)

canavan (14778) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473583)

I have no idea how someone with color blindness sees them, since I only have some red/green deficiency. But why rely on a description when you can try for yourself [wickline.org] , with numerous forms of color blindness.

Re:Colorblind posters wanted (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 7 years ago | (#18474053)

I have no idea how someone with color blindness sees them, since I only have some red/green deficiency. But why rely on a description when you can try for yourself [wickline.org] , with numerous forms of color blindness.
Neat! Thanks for the information.

Re:Colorblind posters wanted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18473641)

If you are in any way involved in designing/choosing color schemes, you may want to have a look at the Eizo L797-U [eizo.com] , S2411W [eizo.com] or similar screens that can simulate color blindness.

Re:Colorblind posters wanted (1)

ozbird (127571) | more than 7 years ago | (#18474097)

Did you want colour blind test images [toledo-bend.com] , or people with colour blindness?

I probably have protanomaly [wikipedia.org] . Distinguishing red and green isn't a problem at all, but I do see different shades of red and brown to other people (e.g. cheap Rubik's cubes with a darker shade of red than the original look maroon to me.) On one occasion, a normal sighted birdwatcher pointed out a Scarlet Robin in a tree that I couldn't see until I looked at it through binoculars, when the bird "popped out" with it's bright red breast. Without binoculars again, I couldn't pick up the red until I got closer and reached my red detection threshold.

On the test images linked about I see: 25, (20/29), (15/45), 56, spots, and (5). The numbers in brackets are where I can see something, but the number doesn't stand out clearly. The other test looks like a pale, but broken, 5 to me.

this makes sense (2, Funny)

scooviduvoctagon (801935) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473455)

A sidebar in the article includes a nice illustration of what two-color vs. three-color mice might perceive. [hhmi.org]

... thus explaining why mice show no outward tendencies towards jealousy or violence, and behave in a highly cautious manner at all times.

Re:this makes sense (1)

scooviduvoctagon (801935) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473527)

Additionally, it has just come to light, that despite their generally cheery persona's, the poor creatures in fact often suffer from long bouts of depression.

Dicromats (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473457)

> Mice without this alteration are normally colorblind.

No. They are dicromats.

Re:Dicromats (1)

belg4mit (152620) | more than 7 years ago | (#18474253)

Commonly referred to as colorblindness i.e; being unable to perceive the whole panoply
of colors a human trichromat can. There's pedantry and then there's being an ass.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_blindness [wikipedia.org]

World sensation! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18473585)

First ever unique photo of a fat geek with a hot girlfriend published:
http://blog.ameba.jp/user_images/7a/9c/10004851840 .jpg [ameba.jp]

Poor mice, I really hope... (1)

Cesa (972909) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473725)

...those three colors weren't orange, brown and beige.

Sign me up. (1)

Spazntwich (208070) | more than 7 years ago | (#18473839)

I'm in for some gene therapy that would let me see into the UV and infra-red spectrums.

How long until parent groups organize to save all the poor unmodified kids who can no longer compete in hide and seek though?

Auras... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18473913)

It shouldn't take long for us to figure out a gene manipulation that will allow us to see auras without all the yogic discipline and practice. This is probably not a good thing... I hope the aliens lay down some biotech laws before things get too far out of hand. Another few years, and we'll either be destroying ourselves or someone will show up to save us. Should be interesting!

Re:Auras... (1)

oneiron (716313) | more than 7 years ago | (#18474039)

Oops...posted as AC. Then again, maybe it was best that way...

Quad vision already here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18474303)

I'd bet most Mac users see the world in CMYK.
That explains a lot of things.

The Ducks Win It! (4, Interesting)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 7 years ago | (#18474915)

Ducks are pentachromats. They have 5 different receptors for color. That doesn't mean they see other colors than we do, but it does mean they have better color differentiation. I can think of no other explanation other than ducks evolved from artists.

Maybe we can put them to work testing monitors. Your garden variety graphics card and monitor are already capable of producing more colors (4.28 million or some such) than humans can differentiate (3 to 3.5 million).
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