While she can’t see through walls or turn her eyes into a heat ray, this woman has the ability to view 99 million more colours than the average human being.
Vision is one of the most complicated of the senses, and how the eyes perceive colour is broken down by ocular cells called cones.
Most people have three types of cones, and are known as being trichromatic.
Individuals who are colour blind have only two types of cones, making them dichromatic.
Discover magazine reported that Dr Gabriele Jordan, a researcher at the Institute of Neuroscience has spent the last 20 years on a mission to find the tetrachromat – an individual with four types of cones – and an ability to view 100 million colours.
While Dr Jordan and her team found several tetrachromats, only one could pass her test, which included showing three coloured circles with a difference that no one but a true tetrachromat could detect.
That woman, who has only been identified as subject cDa29, is a doctor living in northern England – but others may be out there.
Dr Jordan told Discover that the findings had her ‘jumping up and down.’
But with their tetrachromat comes a conundrum: How is one woman’s vision so advanced when others with the same four cones were not?
She told the magazine: ‘We now know tetrachromacy exists. But we don’t know what allows someone to become functionally tetrachromatic, when most four-coned women aren’t.’
And why not men? Research on colour blindness dating back to 1948 found the condition appeared to run in families, but didn’t affect women.
Dutch scientist HL de Vries, who wrote the paper, suggested that females recognised colour differently, thanks to that fourth cone.