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Meet the Byron Bay woman with incredibly rare condition that means she can see 100 MILLION colours

Meet the Byron Bay artist with an incredibly rare condition that means she can see 100 MILLION different colours

  • Concetta Antico has ability to see 100 times more colours than average person
  • Fascinated by colour, she gravitated towards career in painting from young age
  • Ms Antico has established a gallery in Byron Bay after moving back to Australia

A Byron Bay woman is one of only a few people on the planet with a rare condition that means she sees 100million different colours. 

Concetta Antico has tetrachromacy – meaning she has a fourth colour receptor, or cone cell, in her eyes compared to the normal three receptors. 

Ms Antico’s ability to see the dazzling array of colours took her on a path to pursue a career as an artist long before she was even aware her vision was different compared to other people. 

Concetta Antico (pictured) has what is called tetrachromacy – meaning she has a fourth colour receptor, or cone cell, in her eyes compared to the normal three receptors 

Ms Antico has established a new art gallery in Byron Bay two months ago after moving back to Australia in March

Ms Antico has established a new art gallery in Byron Bay two months ago after moving back to Australia in March 

‘As a girl my life was all about colour. I was the girl putting five colours of nail polish on my hand, I had bright yellow bedroom. I would immerse myself in nature because the colours were fascinating,’ Ms Antico told Daily Mail Australia. 

Other children, she explained, would say they couldn’t understand when she would point out colours to them which led her to suspect something about her was different.  

However, not until a moment in 2010 when she was teaching an art class in San Diego, where she was living at the time, did she realise exactly what her condition was. 

‘A Japanese film crew was making a documentary on tetrachromacy and asked my students to raise their hand if I would ever point out colours they could not see – all 12 of them raised their hand,’ Ms Antico said. 

Ms Antico has been studied by the University of California Irvine who think that her fourth cone absorbs light that is in the 'reddish-orangey-yellow' wavelengths (pictured is her work)

Ms Antico has been studied by the University of California Irvine who think that her fourth cone absorbs light that is in the ‘reddish-orangey-yellow’ wavelengths (pictured is her work) 

She had previously read studies on the phenomenon given to her by previous students but that was the moment everything clicked, she explains.

Ms Antico setup a new gallery for her work in Byron Bay two months ago after relocating back to the country in March this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

‘Scientists have studied me for over a decade and can’t find another candidate who has grown the ability to the extent I have –  courtesy of a lifelong immersement in painting,’ she said.   

The artist, who lives in San Diego, California, has more receptors in in her eyes to absorb colour, enabling her to see ¿ and paint ¿ the world around her in a different way to most people (one of her painting is pictured)

The artist, who lives in San Diego, California, has more receptors in in her eyes to absorb colour, enabling her to see – and paint – the world around her in a different way to most people (one of her painting is pictured) 

Tetrachromacy explained

Tetrachromacy is the condition of possessing four independent channels for conveying colour information – which means four different types of cone cells in the eye.

The average person has three types of cone cells.

A tetrachromat’s retina contains four types of higher-intensity light receptors or cone cells with different absorption spectra.

This means they can may see wavelengths beyond those of a typical human being’s eyesight and may be able to distinguish colours that to a human appear to be identical.

Lots of animals are tetrachromats, including birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles and insects.

For example, the humble goldfish has cone cells for red, green, blue and ultraviolet light. It is thought that it gives animals an advantage when spotting minute dust particles, food and the movements of prey or predators.

 

‘Like an Olympic athlete, you might be born with superior genetics, but if you never trained you would not realise you had an ability. Scientists have told me my situation is the perfect storm for this phenomenon.’ 

While the average person can see approximately one million colours, tetrachromats with an extra cone class in their eyes for colour vision, have an increased range of up to a potential 99 million colours. 

Cones are structures in the eye that are designed to absorb particular wavelengths of light and transmit them to the brain. 

It’s thought that the condition is caused by mutations in the X chromosome, which make people to see more or less colour. 

These mutations make men more likely to be colour blind and mean that women more likely to be tetrachromats if they have mutations on both X chromosomes. 

To make the most of her ability to see more colours, Ms Antico paints bright, impressionistic pictures of animals and landscapes and also tries to teach other people to see the colours around them in a new way. 

Ms Antico has been studied by the University of California Irvine who think that her fourth cone absorbs light that is in the ‘reddish-orangey-yellow’ wavelengths. 

She has a 12-year-old daughter who is colour blind, likely because of her own genetic mutation.

Ms Antico hopes that the more experts understand about tetrachromacy, the more they will understand about visual processing, which could be used to help colour blind people. 

Ms Antico hopes to raise awareness of her unique ability which could also help colourblind people (pictured is her work)

Ms Antico hopes to raise awareness of her unique ability which could also help colourblind people (pictured is her work) 

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