Human vision and function/Part 1: Perception of objects/Sensitivity of the sensory cells within the eye

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For this activity, we are going to consider the concepts of light sense and vision.

Light sense and vision

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The concept of vision involves a process that begins with a stimulus. Generally speaking, that stimulus is light. Light enters the eye and undergoes optical refraction (bending) as it passes through the structures of the eyeball that are transparent. It is transmitted to photoreceptor cells within the retina and evokes a chemical reaction. This then evokes an electrical stimulus which travels along the optic nerve and the visual pathways: optic chiasm (crossing), optic tract, lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN), optic radiations to the primary visual cortex in the brain. The light rays form an image on the retina and the amount of electrical impulses transmitted to the brain are interpreted, and we 'see'. We 'see' with our brain. Different parts of the brain, for example memory, are then involved in the process of perception.

Visual awareness of the environment can be studied in separate categories, although all functions are simultaneous.

  • Light sense - differentiating between light and dark
  • Colour sense - discrimination of different wavelengths of light
  • Form sense - discrimination of the parts of an image of the retina


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Let's observe how the sensory cells within the eye perceive vision and how sensitive they are.

What you need:

  1. 3 different coloured pens or texta lids (eg: red, blue, green)
  2. A volunteer (friend, family member, neighbour etc)

With your volunteer, sit opposite each other (examiner & observer) about 0.5 m apart. Use palm of hand to cover one eye. Observer stares at the examiner’s nose, without moving their eye. Examiner slowly brings a vertically held coloured pen lid (colour unknown to subject) towards the centre: along the horizontal midline, then the vertical midline (holding horizontally), first from one side & then the other. This video about Confrontation Visual Field testing will show you the technique.


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  1. What conclusions can you draw from your observations?
  2. Is your observer sensitive to changes for different coloured pen lids? Do they see one particular colour better in a different position or are they all the same?
  3. What could this mean about the eye receptors?

Handy hint

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The questions related to the bovine eye dissection and sensitivity of the cells within the eye will help you with test 1. Start thinking about the visual system and how it works. This will help you with your preparation for your poster assignment.