Visual processing

Visual processing

Visual processing is a complex and dynamic process that involves interactions between various retinal cells, neural pathways, and brain regions, ultimately leading to conscious visual perception.

Visual processing begins the moment light enters the human eye. It then progresses through multiple stages as signals travel towards the visual cortex, where the neural activity is integrated, resulting in conscious visual experience.

As visual processing begins the retina starts to process information about colors, as well as basic information about the shape and movement associated with those colors. By the end of this stage, multiple forms of information about a visual scene are ready to be conveyed to higher brain regions.

Let’s examine two major forms of processing, trichromatic and opponent-processing, which occur within the eyeball as visual information is gathered from light entering our eyes.

Trichromacy, also known as the trichromatic theory of colour vision, explains how three types of cone receptors in the retina work together with bipolar cells to perform their role in the initial stage of colour processing. Rod cells also play a significant role in this form of processing visual information, particularly in low-light conditions.

Opponent-processing, also known as the opponent-process theory of colour vision, explains the second form of processing. Opponent-processing involves ganglion cells that process the data received from trichromatic processing and combine it with other intercellular activities.

It is interesting to note that as both trichromatic and opponent-process theories developed over the last century, researchers and authors have often pitted one theory against the other. However, both processes are crucial for understanding how colour vision occurs.

Trichromatic theory explains the encoding of visual information when light hits the retina, while opponent-processing explains a subsequent stage of information convergence, assembly, and coding before the data leaves the retina via the optic nerve.

Note that:

  • Both trichromatic and opponent-processing occur independently within each retina, without comparing with the other.
  • Each eye gathers information from a specific viewpoint, approximately 50 mm to the left or right of the nose.
  • The two impressions are later compared and combined to provide us with a single three-dimensional, stereoscopic view of the world, rather than two flattened images.

We can consider the layers of retinal cells involved in trichromatic and opponent-processing as examining, interpreting, and transmitting visually relevant information. However, it would be incorrect to view this as a straightforward linear process due to the intricate neural networking, cross-referencing, and feedback loops within the retina.