Sensitivity of Mammalian Cone Photoreceptors to Infrared Light

Frans Vinberg, Grazyna Palczewska, Jianye Zhang, Katarzyna Komar, Maciej Wojtkowski, Vladimir J. Kefalov, Krzysztof Palczewski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Two-photon vision arises from the perception of pulsed infrared (IR) laser light as color corresponding to approximately half of the laser wavelength. The physical process responsible for two-photon vision in rods has been delineated and verified experimentally only recently. Here, we sought to determine whether IR light can also be perceived by mammalian cone photoreceptors via a similar activation mechanism. To investigate selectively mammalian cone signaling in mice, we used animals with disabled rod signal transduction. We found that, contrary to the expected progressive sensitivity decrease based on the one-photon cone visual pigment spectral template, the sensitivity of mouse cone photoreceptors decreases only up to 800 nm and then increases at 900 nm and 1000 nm. Similarly, in experiments with the parafoveal region of macaque retinas, we found that the spectral sensitivity of primate cones diverged above the predicted one-photon spectral sensitivity template beyond 800 nm. In both cases, efficient detection of IR light was dependent on minimizing the dispersion of the ultrashort light pulses, indicating a non-linear two-photon activation process. Together, our studies demonstrate that mammalian cones can be activated by near IR light by a nonlinear two-photon excitation. Our results pave the way for the creation of a two-photon IR-based ophthalmoscope for the simultaneous imaging and functional testing of human retinas as a novel tool for the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of visual disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100-108
Number of pages9
StatePublished - Sep 15 2019


  • cone visual pigment
  • infrared vision
  • phototransduction
  • transretinal electrophysiology
  • two-photon absorption


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