Isolation of short-wavelength-sensitive cone photoreceptors in 4-6-week-old human infants

Vicki J. Volbrecht, John S Werner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Spectral sensitivity was measured for nine infants, 4-6 weeks of age, and three adults under conditions of chromatic adaptation chosen to reveal the presence of short-wavelength-sensitive cones. Monochromatic test stimuli (400-550 nm) were presented at 2 Hz superimposed on a broadband, yellow background. Following 4 min of adaptation to the background, test stimuli were presented while recording the steady-state, visually-evoked cortical potential (VECP). Response averages were obtained for several radiance levels at each test wavelength, and the amplitude of the fundamental frequency was extracted from the digitized response with a fast-Fourier transform. These data were used to construct response vs intensity functions for each wavelength. A fixed criterion response was chosen from the latter family of functions to generate individual spectral sensitivity curves. These VECP spectral sensitivity functions matched the psychophysically-determined functions of adults, measured by the method of adjustment and with the same stimulus configuration. Peak sensitivity for infants and adults under these conditions occurred at about 440 nm, and the main lobe of the curve (400-500 nm) was well fitted by the Vos-Walraven short-wavelength cone fundamental. The only major difference between the infant and adult data was in the relative sensitivity of the secondary mode of the curves (above 500 nm). These results demonstrate the presence of short-wavelength-sensitive cones and a functional pathway to the visual cortex by 4-6 weeks of age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)469-478
Number of pages10
JournalVision Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1987
Externally publishedYes


  • Infant color vision
  • Short-wavelength cones
  • Spectral sensitivity
  • Visually-evoked cortical potential

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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