Human pattern resolution is limited by optical blurring1 as well as neural filtering1,2,3 by a cascade of retinal and cortical sites4,5,6 with progressively lower resolution limits. Curiously, pattern structure can influence perceived color: a high-contrast, monochromatic (single wavelength) pattern appears desaturated (closer to white) relative to a uniform field of the same wavelength3,7,8. Here we show that this desaturation is evident even when the pattern's frequency is too high for conscious perception, implicating a nonlinear process—namely light adaptation—at the level of single cone photoreceptors. We propose a neural mechanism in which fast, involuntary eye movements serve to shift control over perception between two competing cone populations, each operating at different levels of adaptation.
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This research was supported by grant EY-01711 from the National Institutes of Health. We wish to thank A. Shady, D. Hood, A. Holcombe and D. Beer for their comments on an earlier manuscript.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Shady, S., MacLeod, D. Color from invisible patterns. Nat Neurosci 5, 729–730 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1038/nn894
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