Colour and reading

What does the processing of visual and colour information have to do with dyslexia and other reading problems?

Did you know that your eyes use colour to read?

People sometimes think that our vision system somehow does a 'black & white' picture first and then 'colours it in'.
It is not like that at all.

Our eyes have three different types of 'cones' that detect light - mainly sensitive to Red, to Green and to Blue light.
If there are more 'Red' frequencies of light, the 'red' cones trigger more and we see 'Red'.
Black is what we see when there is no light and no colours. If the signals from all three types of cones are equally low we see 'Black'.
White light is made up of all the colours equally mixed together. If the signals from all three types of cones are equally high we see 'White'.
So, when you are reading, your cones are all going On/Off/On/Off/On/Off at all the tiny black then white then black marks on the page.

The processing of all this happens first in the retina of the eyes - a sort of 'pre-mixer' - and then on to the brain to try to make sense of what all those different signals might mean.

From this you can get the idea that, if things are not absolutely triggering and signalling perfectly, then trying to make sense of tiny black marks on a white background is actually one of the most difficult tasks for the human visual system.
It is actually a marvel that it works so well most of the time for most people!

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