Friday, December 2, 2011

Some people have the ability to see colours at will

It appears possible to see colours simply by using the mind. That is what scientists conclude after they asked people that are very susceptible to hypnosis to hallucinate colours on certain monochromatic patterns. Using only their will, they were able to do so. This was previously thought only to be possible during hypnosis. The ability to bend reality at will can in some cases be useful, for example to increase the effectiveness of psychotherapy, or to block out pain.

Scientists from the University of Hull first selected a group of people highly susceptible to hypnosis, and compared them with a group that was found to have a low susceptibility towards hypnosis. They used an MRI scanner to assess what was happening in the brain during hypnosis, and the wilful hallucination of colours. They found that the people who are highly susceptible to hypnosis are able to hallucinate colours where only monochromatic patterns are present. It is intriguing that they can do so at will.

The brain
To see what happens in the brain when participants bend reality, an MRI scanner was used to measure changes during colour hallucination. Both during hypnosis and without, people that imagined colours were found to have significant changes in the brain, notably in the area were visual information is processed. This shows that people able to hallucinate at will, have a talent that is hardcoded in the brain. It also explains why most of us keep colours strictly to reality, and are unable to bend them at will.
The research is an interesting addition to what we know about how our perception is influenced by the brain. It is already known that we can't always rely on what we see, because of how our brain processes the input from the eyes. Only recently, scientists have shown that we do not have to be aware to process visual information. Most input is processed unconsciously, and our awareness is only called in if something unusual is perceived, that we need to explain using other brain areas than the visual pathway.

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