Photographic reconstruction of the blue-shift of perceived color under diminishing levels of illumination. Derivative work by Dick Lyon of original by Lewis Collard.
Shedding light on night vision
The retina of vertebrate eyes, including humans', is the most powerful light detector that we know. Researchers at the University's Center for
Photochemical Sciences have created a highly sophisticated computer model of specialized sensors in the retina that has provided the first explanation for
why, in very low light conditions such as dusk, light tends to be perceived as blue.
The group's findings were reported in the Sept. 7 edition of Science Magazine. The answer, they learned, lies in quantum mechanical effects that may one
day shed light on currently incurable diseases such as so-called night blindness and be used to design the "ultimate sub-nanoscale light detector." It also
opens new avenues of research into the evolution of vision in vertebrates.
"Night vision represents the last frontier of light detection," said Dr. Massimo Olivucci, whose research group in the Laboratory for Computational
Photochemistry and Photobiology (LCPP) is engaged in developing new light-responsive materials based on concepts borrowed from nature.
"In extremely poor illumination conditions, such as those of a star-studded night or of ocean depths, the retina is able to perceive intensities
corresponding to only a few photons, the indivisible units of light. Such high sensitivity is due to specialized sensors called rod rhodopsins that
appeared more than 250 million years ago on the retinas of vertebrate animals," Olivucci said.
Both cone and rod rhodopsins are the interface between the physical world responsible for light detection and the physiological world of brain sensing.
Cones are employed in daylight (color) vision, while rods are employed in night vision. All rhodopsins are proteins containing a derivative of vitamin A
that serves as an "antenna" for photon detection. When a rhodopsin detects a photon, it becomes chemically activated and sends a message to the brain.
However, the rod rhodopsins can also be activated in cases of high body heat. Though extremely rare, the possibility of this "dark noise" is significant
"because there are more than 2 billion rhodopsin molecules in a single rod cell and millions of such cells in the human retina," said LCPP graduate student
Samer Gozem, a primary researcher on the project.
"A low level of 'dark noise' is necessary for the evolution of night vision" because if the rods are activated by ambient body heat instead of the presence
of light, dim-light vision would be disrupted, Olivucci explained. The rhodopsin models have provided, for the first time, an understanding of the thermal
activation process. Using the models, the researchers have been able to formulate a theory of thermal noise.
Blue light has a wavelength of about 470 nanometers, which the computer models have shown corresponds to the optimal (thus lowest) level of heat activation
for perception of low light.
The team built rhodopsin models on a computer cluster at the Ohio Supercomputer Center, which has provided two independent research grants to the group.
Working with French collaborator Dr. Nicolas Ferré at the Université d'Aix-Marseille, Gozem and research assistant Dr. Igor Schapiro carried out
a series of state-of-the art simulations of the thermal activation of a set of rod rhodopsins.
The model construction, validation and study have taken more than two years to complete and were jointly funded by the Center for Photochemical Sciences
and the College of Arts and Sciences.
Actress and BGSU alumna Eva Marie Saint will once again play the "leading lady" when she returns to campus Saturday and Sunday (Oct. 13 and 14) for the
dedication of a new theatre named in her honor.
She and her husband, producer/director Jeffrey Hayden, will celebrate the relocation of the Eva Marie Saint Theatre from University Hall, where she began
her acting career as a student, to the Wolfe Center for the Arts. The couple will also take part in a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the film
careers of Lillian and Dorothy Gish, on Sunday - Lillian Gish's birthday.
Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards will proclaim Oct. 13 Eva Marie Saint Day and Oct. 14 Lillian Gish Day in the city. BGSU presented Saint the Distinguished
Alumna Award in 1960 and an honorary doctorate of performing arts in 1982.
The theatre dedication will begin at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Thomas B. and Kathleen M. Donnell Theatre in the Wolfe Center, followed by a reception in the
lobby. The event is free and open to the public.
Saint will speak at the ceremony. Invited guests include President Mary Ellen Mazey; first-year theatre major Natalie Golz of Rocky River, recipient of
this year's Eva Marie Saint Scholarship; and James Frasher, longtime manager of Lillian Gish, with whom Saint starred in the 1953 television production of
"The Trip to Bountiful." Gish and Saint reprised their roles on Broadway the following year, earning Saint the Drama Critics Award and the Outer-Circle
Saint has had a distinguished career on stage and television and in film, appearing in more than 161 productions and performing with actors such as Marlon
Brando, Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor, and directors such as Elia Kazan, Alfred Hitchcock and Otto Preminger.
Her many honors include an Academy Award for "On the Waterfront" and a 1990 Emmy for her role in "People Like Us." She has two stars on the Hollywood Walk
Still active in acting, Saint will be soon begin production of "A Winter's Tale," co-starring Colin Farrell, Jessica Brown Findlay ("Downton Abbey"),
William Hurt, Russell Crowe and Will Smith.
Faculty activity In Brief
Dr. Bonnie Berger, human movement, sport and leisure studies, was conference chair of this year's annual international conference for the Association for
Applied Sport Psychology. Read more In Brief