Colour vision in ADHD: part 1--testing the retinal dopaminergic hypothesis

Soyeon Kim, Mohamed Al-Haj, Samantha Chen, Stuart Fuller, Umesh Jain, Marisa Carrasco, Rosemary Tannock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVES: To test the retinal dopaminergic hypothesis, which posits deficient blue color perception in ADHD, resulting from hypofunctioning CNS and retinal dopamine, to which blue cones are exquisitely sensitive. Also, purported sex differences in red color perception were explored.

METHODS: 30 young adults diagnosed with ADHD and 30 healthy young adults, matched on age and gender, performed a psychophysical task to measure blue and red color saturation and contrast discrimination ability. Visual function measures, such as the Visual Activities Questionnaire (VAQ) and Farnsworth-Munsell 100 hue test (FMT), were also administered.

RESULTS: Females with ADHD were less accurate in discriminating blue and red color saturation relative to controls but did not differ in contrast sensitivity. Female control participants were better at discriminating red saturation than males, but no sex difference was present within the ADHD group.

CONCLUSION: Poorer discrimination of red as well as blue color saturation in the female ADHD group may be partly attributable to a hypo-dopaminergic state in the retina, given that color perception (blue-yellow and red-green) is based on input from S-cones (short wavelength cone system) early in the visual pathway. The origin of female superiority in red perception may be rooted in sex-specific functional specialization in hunter-gather societies. The absence of this sexual dimorphism for red colour perception in ADHD females warrants further investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38
Number of pages1
JournalBehavioral and brain functions : BBF
StatePublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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