Researchers create new tool to explore color vision

The Badal Longitudinal Chromatic Aberration Compensator looks at how multiple colors interact with the retina.

The retina, much like space, is an area of great mystery.

Vision problems start at the cellular level. Vision researchers are exploring where those diseases take place and how to repair ithem. To solve these problems, they need to correctly identify them.  Now they have a new tool – a system created at the University of Washington School of Medicine to compensate for chromatic aberrations in how we see color.

“Our world is colorful and our eyes were developed to see those wonderful colors,” said Xiaoyun Jiang, a UW Medicine researcher in ophthalmology who was the first author of a study in Optica, The Optical Society's journal for high-impact research. “Researchers are interested in understanding how the retina enables the perception of multiple colors.”

Jiang was part of the team who created the Badal Longitudinal Chromatic Aberration Compensator to accurately focus multiple colors on the same retinal layer simultaneously. This could lead to new insights into visual halos, glare and color perception.

The compensator is incorporated into traditional adaptive optics, the same tool used by astronomers to peer at small objects in space. This allows the probing of retinal cells in diseased human eyes at high resolution, which can detect sensitive biomarkers for early disease diagnosis and monitoring of cellular events involved in disease progression.

Lead author Ramkumar Sabesan, a research assistant professor of ophthalmology at the University of Washington School of Medicine, runs a lab using adaptive optics for studying the retina and human vision. He said the device is a great tool for color vision experiments and, more generally, in cases where multiple colors need to be focused simultaneously on the retina by overcoming the eye’s native chromatic aberration.

“We have provided a recipe that can any researcher can incorporate,” he said.

Sabesan said the technology can be readily deployed in clinics, where it could assess eye changes associated with aging, It could also help inform the design of new multifocal lenses by accounting for chromatic aberrations in the lenses themselves. For vision research, he said, the technique could advance studies of color blindness and how different people perceive color.

This work was supported by National Eye Institute, Research to Prevent Blindness; Burroughs Wellcome Fund, Murdock Charitable Trust.

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