50 Shades of Blue

Wearing one red sock and one blue sock today? That’s what you get for dressing in the dark! Sort of.

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with The Loh Down on Science.

Think of vision as a series of brain cells turning each other on. Not so much romantically, as literally. However, a recent study has found that color vision in dim light works differently. It actually turns cells OFF!

Scientists at Caltech studied this color competition in the brains of mice. Mice can only see two colors: green and ultraviolet.

The top of a mouse eye doesn’t see green. But green light caused U.V. cells there to turn OFF. Why? Turns out, a newly discovered cell type controls ALL the color cells! It’s called
J-A-M-B. In dim light, this cell picks the strongest color and tell other cells to shush.

The researchers say human vision probably works the same way. In low light, J-A-M-B cells turn our red and green cells OFF but leave blue cells ON.

So, the obvious solution to mismatched outfits? Make your entire wardrobe blue!

Or, you know. Turn on the lights.