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Visual deprivation: Day 4
Jul 29, 2011, 11:32p - Consciousness

[For background, see my first post on the experiment. This is a rough transcript of a dictation made on day 5.]

It's a beautiful day (referring to day 5). Right now I'm sitting in the sun, without a shirt on. It's quite nice. Boris (my tortoise) has emerged from his little borough. He didn't come out yesterday but he came out today to eat his lettuce (or so Becca tells me).

So far the experiment is going pretty good I think. I called the sailing place and they said it was fine to come on to the boat not being able to see, and I think I'm going to do that. So I have no excuse to end this experiment early.

I had more energy today than any of the previous 3 days. I took maybe 2 naps, 1 in the afternoon around 5pm and another at night.

I've been listening to this book called "Area 51" on audiotape, which is interesting. It's supposed to be about Area 51, which is famous for UFOs and flying suacers, but the book has been mostly a history of the military development that happened there. This includes the development of the U2 bomber and the Blackbird SR-71, though apparently it's supposed to be called the RS-71. The Blackbird was a derivative of a plane called A-12 made by Lockheed. The book is more of a technological military history of what spy planes were developed at Area 51. It does say that the incident at Roswell where people reported seeing a flying saucer crash as well as one or more alien-like bodies (big heads, big eyes, small bodies) was just Russian technology that was taken from the Germans after the end of World War II. And they claim that there was Russian writing (Cyrillic) inside the dash of the flying saucer. But they haven't yet explained anything about the bodies (kids?) or anything about the craft's ability to hover, to go really fast and stop and hover, which I guess is technology that's available today but not in the shape of a flying saucer and was technology that was definitely not available in 1947, at least according to what people think they know. So I'm not fully sold on the idea, but I've been listening to that audiobook. It's pretty interesting but really, really long especially compared to the Helen Keller autobiography which was really short.

I got halfway through that today, and listened to it for maybe 6-8 hours. It put me to sleep twice.

Otherwise I had a lot more energy. I did a lot of household chores. I didn't leave the house but I mopped and I did the dishes, put away the dishes. I also did some exercises because I was getting to feel just like a bag of sand. So I did some push-ups and sit-ups so that was good. Overall, more energy.

I think I might be getting used to this. I think the eyemask isn't bothering me as much although it's always a relief to take it off and get some fresh air on my eyelids. I also took a shower today.

Becca did look up some other visual deprivation experiments. I hadn't looked up anything because I wanted to go in blind (whatever, stupid pun). It was hard to find things. First we searched for visual deprivation experiments and apparently my blog post is the second result, which is ludicrous because it doesn't say anything and has no data on the topic because I haven't posted my experience yet.

We found a few things. People have done experiments with people where they visually deprive them for anywhere from an hour to a few hours and they find that they're visual sensitivity is heightened at the neurological level, not just the retinal level. So TMS stimulation of the visual cortex leads more easily to seeing phosphenes (bright dots in your vision) and you have better acuity in terms of measuring angle differences in visual gratings. So that's pretty interesting, and what I would have expected. My mom was hoping that this experiment would just heal my vision (since I'm near-sighted). So I think my visual acuity will go up.

We found another study from the 50s. I guess they did a lot of interesting stuff in the 50s and 60s, maybe because they weren't as paranoid as people are today about human treatment. They did an experiment where they basically put people in solitary confinement where they were stuck on a cot in a small room, with no stimulation. They had sound muffling and they wore goggles to blur their vision so they couldn't see any patterns. Apparently people only lasted 2 or 3 days. My experiment is not as serious as that - I can move around, I can talk to people, I can go out, but it didn't sound like they measured any visual response after the experiment was over.

So far there hasn't been anything in humans that is quite like what I'm doing, at least reported in the scientific literature (that Becca and I were able to find).

The last interesting experiment we found was done in mice. There are lots of childhood deprivation, critical period kinds of experiments in mice, but we found one in adults. They deprived mice of vision for 7, 30 or 120 days. What they found after 7 days (which is how long I'm doing it for) is that the mice's visual sensitivity had gone up. They didn't measure behavior, so it's not as convincing as the human experiments, but they did measure electrical activity in the visual cortex, which is a good correlate I suppose. So after 7 days the sensitivity goes up (the same stimulus gives a greater response in visual cortex), but after 30 or 120 days it goes down. So they interpret that as an initial period where sensitivity increases and then decreases. That's the closest study to what I'm doing, though 7 days in the mouse is probably longer than 7 days in the human, so for now I'm expecting my sensitivity and acuity to go up.

There are also lots of results if you search for blindness simulation. These are people who are trying to show people what it's like to be blind. These I find less interesting because they aren't really about what effect deprivation has on your visual experience of the world or your qualia, your consciousness.

Even for me right now I don't feel like my hearing is enhanced, I don't feel like my sense of smell is enhanced, I don't feel like my sense of touch is enhanced, I don't feel like my sense of taste is enhanced. I don't feel like anything is enhanced though I'm not measuring this in a more consistent, experimental manner.

I keep going. Only 3 full days left. I think I'm going to end the experiment Tuesday morning when I wake up. If I end it Monday night that technically would be the full 7 days but it will be dark, and it may not be a good time to get the full effect of deprivation if it's so dark. So I think I'll end Tuesday morning.

Read comments (2) - Comment

Liz Dzeng - Aug 6, 2011, 5:43p
Hey Nik! Wow, I'm so impressed that your doing this. It sounds incredibly hard with a huge amount of self discipline required. I could not even last an hour I bet if I tried. I've really enjoyed reading your posts which are so descriptive and introspective. You really should publish these findings in a scientific journal, so few experiments have been done on this. I'm really interested to read about your "unmasking"!

Niniane - Aug 23, 2011, 1:14a
Are there any more entries??

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