Different uses of chromatic signals in patients with congenital and acquired colour vision deficiencies



Chromatic signals can be used to generate perceived colour and also to detect spatially structured objects defined only by chromatic differences. These two attributes have previously been investigated in dichromats and cerebral achromatopsic patients using a new colour vision test developed at City University that makes possible the isolation of pure chromatic signals (Barbur et al. Proc. R. Soc. LondonB 258, 327–334, 19941). We have investigated acquired colour vision changes in a 69-year-old patient, after conventional colour vision tests gave ambiguous results. His ability to detect an object using chromatic signals was impaired more than his ability to detect a colour change, and this impairment was greater in the right eye than in the left eye. This dissociation suggests parallel pathways may be involved in the two processes of coding chromatic signals. Recent neurological testing on the same patient has indicated the onset of multiple sclerosis. Our much earlier finding based on colour vision testing may therefore have useful diagnostic implications.