How Your Eyes Work

Vision begins when light rays are reflected off an object and enter the eyes through the cornea, the transparent outer covering of the eye. The cornea bends or refracts the rays that pass through a round hole called the pupil. The iris, or colored portion of the eye that surrounds the pupil, opens and closes (making the pupil bigger or smaller) to regulate the amount of light passing through. The light rays then pass through the lens, which actually changes shape so it can further bend the rays and focus them on the retina at the back of the eye. The retina is a thin layer of tissue at the back of the eye that contains millions of tiny light-sensing nerve cells called rods and cones, which are named for their distinct shapes. Cones are concentrated in the center of the retina, in an area called the macula. In bright light conditions, cones provide clear, sharp central vision and detect colors and fine details. Rods are located outside the macula and extend all the way to the outer edge of the retina. They provide peripheral or side vision. Rods also allow the eyes to detect motion and help us see in dim light and at night. These cells in the retina convert the light into electrical impulses. The optic nerve sends these impulses to the brain where an image is produced.

   

In the following schematic illustration, click on the names to highlight the parts of the eye.

 


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Here are illustrations of rods and cones. Cones are concentrated in the center of the retina in an area called the macula, and provide clear, sharp central vision and detect colors and fine details. Rods are located outside the perimeter of the macula and extend all the way to the outer edge of the retina. They provide peripheral vision, allow the eye to detect motion, and help us see in dim light and at night.