A Genetic Mutation That Lets This Artist See 100s More Colors

Samuel Reason | February 12th, 2018

Concetta Antico is an artist like no other and that is literally speaking, because she can see hundreds of more colors than the average person. As she likes to put it, the world is “like a mosaic of color.”

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When Concetta looks at a leaf, she doesn’t just see that it is a dark green. The edges could be orange, red or even a purple shade for a shadow, in fact, it is all a swirl of different colors. And this is not because she is an artist talking about her style of art. It is because she is a tetrachromat: a unique genetic mutation that gives her more color receptors in her eyes.

In 2012 a genetic analysis showed that Concetta greater color vision is due to her eyes having four types of cone cells. Normally we only find three cones in the human eye. What this means is by having four cones in her eyes, she is able to enjoy a bigger diversity of colors. In fact, it would be around 100 times greater than what the rest of us can see. So what are these cones?

The three cones you find in your eyes are calibrated to absorb a certain wavelength of light and then sends that over to your brain. This is what creates the vision of color that you see when walking around. Basically, we are able to see about one million colors, but by having four cones suddenly you would be able to pick up on different dimensions and nuances of color. It is estimated that Concetta would be able to see about 100 million different types of color.

How does the brain understand all these different color receptors? Currently, it is not really known by researchers. Only around one percent of the world’s population is thought to be tetrachromatic but it is very hard to differentiate. It is not like comparing someone who is colorblind with someone who can see all the three pigments of red, green and blue. The differences in the vision of color are subtle and it needs may even need other mutations to allow your brain to perceive them.

Would this mean Concetta some sort of color superhero? For the moment it definitely would seem so due to the rareness in this genetic mutation and the ability to understand the nuances of the colors seen. Time will tell if researchers are able to locate more tetrachromats, for the moment, we can enjoy her beautiful art.

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