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All about your retinas

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When it comes to perceiving light and color, you have your retinas to thank for that ability!

This layer of light-sensitive cells on the back interior wall of your eye captures the light projected through the lenses. The photons (light particles) captured by these cells are then transmitted through the optic nerve and into your neural pathways as electrical and chemical signals. Your brain processes these signals, allowing you to see and understand what it is you’re looking at.

The photoreceptive cells making up the retina come in two main varieties named for their general shape: rods and cones. Rods are located throughout the retina except in the fovea, the center of the macula, and function best in dim light, allowing you to see in darker spaces. Cones reside primarily in the central area of your retina called the macula and the exclusive cells found in the fovea, and function best in bright light.

Cones also have the job of perceiving color. Colors as we know them are representative of different wavelengths of light, with shorter wavelengths skewing more blue, and longer ones skewing red. Medium-wavelength light skews green. There are three different types of cones, each detecting one of these wavelengths. Through additive color theory, the combination of these wavelengths creates the wide variety of colors that you see every day.

So, the next time you’re admiring a colorful piece of art, or taking a sunset walk, thank your rods, cones and retinas for allowing you to see it all!