Saturday, March 14, 2015

The müller cells also play a role in our making sense of color and light

Do you have cataract? It is a disease of old age. Most times, cataract affects an individual due to exposure to radiation, chemicals and other environmental factors that reduce the ability of the eyes to function properly. Cataract, as a disease, is due to the lens that captures light in the eyes becoming opaque, thereby preventing light from passing through to the photoreceptor cells at the retina.

I wrote an article this week on the dress that caused a sensation on social media circles because of the difficulty it imposes on a viewer as to light perception. Persons who suffer visual problems like cataract do not enjoy and revel in the sensation of light and color as others. French impressionist, Claude Monet, is in that class. Her visual problems made her paintings imprecise and muted in colors. If you suffer from visual problems, you have to cope with inefficient light reception.

Is it white and gold, or blue and black?
Credit: User swiked on
Apart from the cones and the rods in the retina which distinguishes daylight from night vision, there is another group of cells in front of the retina which work towards our enjoying color.

Those cells are called Müller cells or müller glia. These cells function as light and color filters. Their position in front of the retina makes sure that the light getting to the rods and cones are already sorted, filtered and organized. Clever, not so?

Müller cells, according to Dr Erez Ribak from Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology, are at just the “the right height, and their light-bearing trunks are just the right width, to filter the wavelengths correctly”.

So, as you look at the dress again, and if you wonder why so many persons disagree on what color they perceive, you could place the müller cells as one of the candidates at the heart of their visual problems, if not a disease like cataract.

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