Color blindness

Enchroma lenses are glasses designed to improve and modify some aspects of color vision deficiency for color blind people. Glass scientist Dr. Donald McPherson invented Enchroma glasses by accident. He originally invented this type of lens to protect surgeons during laser operations. In 2002 at the Ultimate Frisbee tournament in Santa Cruz, California McPherson lent a pair to a friend who was color blind. His friend saw colors he had never seen before.

McPherson started studying color blindness, and with Andrew Schmeder founded the company EnChroma Inc. in 2010 to sell glasses that compensate for color vision deficiency. Enchroma glasses target people with difficulties in distinguishing reds and greens. The first pair of commercial glasses were released in 2012.

The optical filter used in Enchroma lenses can improve or modify aspects of color vision deficiency (CVD). Enchroma lenses focus on the most common color vision deficiency which is caused by the red and green retinal cone cells that, when responding to light, coincide. The most common form of color blindness is known as deuteranomaly, it is genetic and an X-linked trait that affects up to one in every 12 men (8%) and one in 200 women (0.5%). To eliminate the overlapping of the wavelengths of light an optical material called a ‘multi-notch’ filter removes the exact wavelengths of light in the location where it overlaps, creating a simplified differentiation of colors. The glasses block specific wavelengths to create a clearer separation of different color signals so that they can be better calculated by the brain. The separation of signals allows most people with CVD to distinguish colors, but the glasses will have little to no effect on the 20% of color blind people who have severe color impairment.

In some subjects, improvements due to the technology do not happen immediately because the brain requires time to rewire and create new links. Neuroplasticity depends on the age of the individual. Younger people reported that they perceived little changes from the first time they wore glasses and a second wearing in which they have had time to adapt to the technology. Middle age people reported that the colors continued to change from the first time they wore the lens, and that color brightness and enhancement got better with time. Most participants related that the biggest effects of the glasses are not perceived initially but after a few days, confirming that the neuroplasticity takes time. Experiments have demonstrated that the glasses have a positive effect on the everyday life of those subject to color blindness. The glasses achieve better results with some colors than others. The biggest improvements are achieved with greens, followed by purples, pinks, and reds. Subtle differences emerged when users looked longer and more carefully.

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