This Australian Woman Can See 100 Million Colors Thanks to Her Rare Condition

The woman believes that more scientists study the rare condition, the more they will understand about visual processing

An Australian woman can see 100 million different colors and this unique ability took her on a path to pursue a career as an artist. But she later came to know that it is all about a fourth color receptor, or a condition of possessing four types of cone cell in the eye.

The woman from Byron Bay Concetta Antico has tetrachromacy. She said that during childhood, other kids used to get confused when she would point out colors to them. This led her to suspect that there was something different about her vision.

In 2010, when she was teaching at an art class in San Diego, she realized what makes her different from others. Antico said at that time a Japanese film crew was making a documentary on tetrachromacy and "asked my students to raise their hand if I would ever point out colors they could not see - all 12 of them raised their hand."

Tetrachromacy: A Rare Condition
Concetta Antico Wikimedia commons

Antico now has an art gallery in Byron Bay after she returned to Australia in March amid the Coronavirus pandemic. According to her, many scientists have studied her condition but could not find another individual who has grown the vision ability to the extent she has. "Scientists have told me my situation is the perfect storm for this phenomenon," she added.

Tetrachromacy: A Rare Condition

Researchers from the University of California Irvine studied her and they think that the Antico's fourth cone absorbs light that is in the 'reddish-orangey-yellow' wavelengths. According to her the more scientists study the rare condition, the more they will understand about visual processing, and that could be used to help those who are color blind.

An average person can see around one million colors, but people with tetrachromacy have an increased range of up to a potential 99 million colors. It is thought that the condition is caused by a mutation in the X chromosome. Women are more likely to tetrachromats if they have mutations on both X chromosomes.

It may be quite challenging to find out whether someone is a tetrachromat if testing is conducted. Genetic testing can help to find out. Complete genetic profiling can find the mutations on the genes that may have resulted in the fourth cones. Even a color matching test is also considered as the most significant test for tetrachromacy.