The Brain On Colour: New Studies Unlocking How Colour Boosts Our Brain Function

Activity Patterns in the Brain Are Specific to the Color You See...

As an individual who is both an artist and a scientist, the notion of any concept involving the coercian of colour, creativity and art in respects to medical advancements and research has always been at the forefront of my interests. And with researchers other than myself now being able to ascertain that the colours people see directly influence the activity levels of their brains... well let's just day that excitement is becoming real.

A pool of neurological specialists at the National Eye Institute (NEI) have decoded brain maps of humans ability to perceive colour. In their findings; a correlation was established that has now opened a window into how colour not only affects our peychological mood (ie the art of feng shui, interior and spacial design), but also that was in which the brain processes colour leads to a more organised or disorganised brain function, singular colour and colour harmony depending. The scans (in the form of MRI CT and other brain imaging technologies) indicate how the brain recognizes and groups colors in the environment. The study therefore may be providing new leverage into the way we comprehend human development and thus direct better enhancements of machine-brain interfaces for visual prosthetics - duch ad sight restoration technologies. NEI is part of the National Institutes of Health, which for those whom are unaware, the primary agency of the USA government, which is responsible for nearly all biomedical and public health related research projects... so in short: they're a pretty big deal!

Why is this study so important?

What makes this investigation more profound still is that it is one of the first studies to determine what color a person is seeing based on direct measurements of brain activity. The approach lets existing and will allow for future neurospecialists to get at the fundamental questions of how we perceive, categorize, and understand colour.

How does the brain perceive colour?

The brain uses light signals detected by the retina’s cone photoreceptors as the building blocks for color perception. Three types of cone photoreceptors detect light over a range of wavelengths. The brain mixes and categorizes these signals to perceive color in a process that is not well understood, hence the study and rich desire to learn more!

How did the study take place?

The manner in which the study began is a relatively well recognised approach in the neuro community. Magnetoencephalography or “MEG,” is a 50-year-old technology that noninvasively records the tiny magnetic fields that accompany brain activity. The technique provides a direct measurement of brain cell activity using an array of sensors around the head. It reveals the millisecond-by-millisecond changes that happen in the brain to enable vision. The researchers recorded patterns of activity as volunteers viewed specially designed color images and reported the colors they saw.

What colours were investigated?

The researchers worked with pink, blue, green, and orange hues so that they could activate the different classes of photoreceptors in similar ways. These colors were presented at two luminance levels – light and dark. The researchers used a spiral stimulus shape, which produces a strong brain response.

And what has been found from the study so far?

The researchers found that study participants had unique patterns of brain activity for each color. With enough data, the researchers could predict from MEG recordings what colour a volunteer was looking at, which essentially will lead the neuro community to be able to start decoding the brain map of colour processing... or in more exciting terms: “mind-reading.”

People have been wondering about the organization of colours for thousands of years. The physical basis for color–the rainbow–is a continuous gradient of hues. But people don’t see it that way. They carve the rainbow into categories and arrange the colors as a wheel. We were interested in understanding how the brain makes this happen, how hue interacts with brightness, such as to turn yellow into brown.

Culture and colour within thy brain!

As an example, in a variety of languages and cultures, humans have more distinct names for warm colors (yellows, reds, oranges, browns) than for cool colors (blues, greens). It’s long been known that people consistently use a wider variety of names for the warm hues at different luminance levels (e.g. “yellow” versus “brown”) than for cool hues (e.g. “blue” is used for both light and dark).

The new discovery shows that brain activity patterns vary more between light and dark warm hues than for light and dark cool hues. The findings suggest that our universal propensity to have more names for warm hues may actually be rooted in how the human brain processes color, not in language or culture.

The final palette... 🎨

For all humans, colour is a powerful model system that reveals clues to how the mind and brain work. How does the brain organize and categorize colour? Why do some colours have an association with a particular ekotion, such ss blue with sadness or yellow with contenent? How has society formed conducts of gender based on pink or azul? What makes us think one colour is more similar to another?”

It is by utilising this new approach that we can start to more efficiently decode how colour perception works – and in the process, hopefully uncover how the brain turns sense data into perceptions, thoughts, and ultimately... action! 💥


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