Visual system

system of body parts responsible for sight

The visual system is the part of the nervous system which allows organisms to see. It interprets the information from visible light to build a representation of the world surrounding the body. The visual system has the complex task of (re)constructing a three dimensional world from a two dimensional projection of that world. The psychological manifestation of visual information is known as visual perception.

The human eye
The image projected onto the retina is inverted due to the optics of the eye.
The visual system includes the eyes, the connecting pathways through to the visual cortex and other parts of the brain. The illustration shows the mammalian system.



This article mostly describes the visual system of mammals, although other "higher" animals have similar visual systems. In this case, the visual system consists of:

Different species are able to see different parts of the light spectrum; for example, bees can see into the ultraviolet,[1] while pit vipers can accurately target prey with their infrared imaging sensors.[2]


  1. J Bellingham, SE Wilkie, AG Morris, JK Bowmaker and DM Hunt (1997), "Characterisation of the ultraviolet-sensitive opsin gene in the honey bee, Apis mellifera", European Journal of Biochemistry, Vol 243, 775-781
  2. AB Safer and MS Grace (2004), "Infrared imaging in vipers: differential responses of crotaline and viperine snakes to paired thermal targets". Behav Brain Res. 154(1):55-61. 2004 Sep 23.
  • David H. Hubel 1989. Eye, Brain and Vision. New York: Scientific American Library.
  • David Marr 1982. Vision: A Computational Investigation into the Human Representation and Processing of Visual Information. San Francisco: Freeman.
  • R.W. Rodiek 1988. The Primate Retina. In Comparative Primate Biology. vol 4 of Neurosciences. eds H.D. Steklis and J. Erwin. pp. 203–278. New York: A.R. Liss.
  • Matthew Schmolesky, The Primary Visual Cortex Archived 2004-12-29 at the Wayback Machine
  • Martin J. Tovée 1996. An introduction to the visual system. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-48339-5
  • Andreas Vesalius 1543. De Humani Corporis Fabrica (On the Workings of the Human Body)
  • Torsten Wiesel and David H. Hubel 1963. The effects of visual deprivation on the morphology and physiology of cell's lateral geniculate body. Journal of Neurophysiology 26, 978-993.

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