Declines in wavelength discrimination and shifts in unique hue with hypoxia

Andrew Bierman, Tim LaPlumm, Mark S. Rea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


INTRODUCTION: Hypoxia can be a problem for warfighters, compromising visual and cognitive performance. One area of study has been hypoxia-induced decrements in color vision. METHODS: The present study examined how hypoxia affected the perception of wavelengths associated with unique green and with unique yellow as well as discriminability by the blue vs. yellow (b-y) and the red vs. green (r-g) spectrally opponent color channels while breathing O2 levels found at sea level and at 5500 m. Measurements of wavelengths producing unique green (minimizing response by the b-y channel) and unique yellow (minimizing response by the r-g channel) preceded measurements of wavelength discriminability near those unique hues. RESULTS: Relative to sea level, unique yellow shifted to shorter wavelengths (0.54 nm) and unique green shifted to longer wavelengths (2.3 nm) under hypoxia. In terms of an equal psychophysical scale, both unique hues shifted by similar magnitudes. Wavelength discriminability of both color channels was compromised by statistically reliable amounts of 16-17% under hypoxia. DISCUSSION: These results were consistent with previous studies and the inference that postreceptor, M-cone neurons were differentially compromised by hypoxia. However, these measurable changes in color vision due to hypoxia were not perceived by the subjects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)394-402
Number of pages9
JournalAerospace medicine and human performance
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Color vision
  • Hypoxia
  • Unique hue
  • Wavelength discriminability


Dive into the research topics of 'Declines in wavelength discrimination and shifts in unique hue with hypoxia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this