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The end of visual deprivation
Aug 2, 2011, 7:34a - Consciousness

It's the first day, morning, after opening my eyes after 7 days of visual deprivation. I opened my eyes last night, first in a dark room right after midnight, and then we lit a candle.

The first thing that's very striking, even in the morning now, is that everything that's blue looks extremely BLUE. Either I forgot what blue looked like or... That color definitely seems brighter than it's ever seemed. I'm looking across outside my window to some flowers, some blue large flowers, I'm not sure what they're called. They look extremely bright. It's about 5 in the morning. And then my neighbor's lawn chair has these blue pads with a blue pattern on it and they're much brighter than anything else in the morning. And I'm looking at my blue Nalgene bottle, even that seems... I don't know. That color, that color just seems brighter than the rest.

To look out the window, it seems that it's the natural world that seems to stand out the most. Everything else is very geometric. All of the houses, all of the cars, our constructions are very geometric but it's the natural world that has, I guess so much visual complexity that it's hard to remember it.

Even purple seems to be standing out a bit. There's a bush with a bunch of small purple flowers. In a way this is like being drunk.


And we have a yellow wall. Wow.

In a way this is a bit like being drunk. I'm having some difficulty focusing my eyes. And the world seems to move very...

Woah. So the clock light looks extremely green. Not really green, but some sort of low-chroma green-turquoise, almost a slight green silvery color. I mean, reds. The funny thing is when I look at these red LEDs or red clock lights, it doesn't seem much different than it was before. But it's these blues and greens which I'm finding really striking. I look out onto the world and everything is so green. And there's a big red house back there but the house, even though they just repainted, it doesn't look as striking.

So as I was saying, this is a little bit like being drunk. The world seems to move more slowly around me. As I move my eyes, I feel like perception is delayed. I also felt that it was really hard to keep my eyes still. So if I focus my eyes on a little corner or something the world seems to blend out a little bit, sort of disappear and I feel I have to keep moving my eyes in order for it all to persist, and to be maintained. Otherwise it becomes hazier.

The red of this dog [on a painted tile] is pretty...

I couldn't sleep last night. I mean I slept a bit, I had a few dreams I remembered so I must have slept some. I haven't had any trouble sleeping during the whole experiment. I mean it's been the opposite, I've been sleeping all the time. But turning on the lights seems to have just stimulated my brain, and then my brain just would not succumb to sleep.

I feel like I'm having a bit of an issue with depth perception. My eyes are getting better now, but last night... One thing interesting was that when we turned on the candle last night, and even the candle which is just a bright orange... The orange seemed fine as I expected but when I moved my eyes away and looked from the periphery it actually seemed to glow green. Not the candle flame itself but just the light emitted from the candle flame. And even the light coming from the street light leaking in through our windows in the darkness, they all just seemed much more blue.

I'm looking at this violet cup. And this really stands out. I'm looking at a bunch of pots, some red pots, some dark dark green pots, but it's just the violet pot that looks like it's popping, it almost looks fluorescent, in a sort of dark, blacklight-like violet. But it's just a plastic cup.

Things seems to have this blue tone, even lights that I have never seen as blue, like the streetlight creeping through the window. It seems to illuminate in this bluish tone. Same with the candle, the candle seemed to have this greenish tone which I had never seen before.

It's amazing how quickly you can forget what you see everyday. How it does not have anywhere near the same sense of realism in your mind and your imagination as it has in reality. I'm just standing outside now and it's just amazing. I mean, I dunno, it's just amazing. I'd forgotten.

My memory is such a poor copy of the real world, especially my perceptual memory.

Some reds do seems to stand out. The red on the slide of my neighbor's little toddler play pen is pretty bright.

My eyes seems to be moving slowly. When I move them I seem to see more of the blur. I feel like I'm just more aware of my saccades in general. I was looking at a photo on my phone and I could just see every little saccade. Maybe blur suppression during saccades might be suppressed after these 7 days.

It's taking me longer to focus. My eyes are just not as good with the focusing. As I move my eyes around, things just seem much slower, and it takes me longer to get something into focus.

I don't think it's because my eyes themselves are having trouble synchronizing. When I just cover one I eye and look at something it still seems blurred.

(Our lawn really needs to be mowed.)

It's sort of like being drunk. I can't really see everything that's coming into my eyes. Maybe I really just have to focus on the smallest part and then the other stuff just blurs away.

Here's the pyramid I made. It's still drying. But it's not bad actually, for a blind man's pyramid. It actually has a bit of an interesting angle to it.

Wow, there's so much here.

Your eyes are basically your brain exposed. Especially the retina. So I do feel like I couldn't sleep last night because my brain got the stimulation that it's been missing for a week. And it got it now, and even though I only opened my eyes for maybe 15 minutes, it just persisted. It was just enough to sustain my mind for many many hours. I was just tossing and turning all night last night.

This is... something else.


Another interesting thing is that I don't think my eyes are very dilated, as I might have expected. Becca looked at my eyes by candle light last night and she said that they looked much smaller. And this morning I looked at one eye, my left eye, with the bathroom light on, and it was actually a normal dilation, even though I was extremely sensitive to light at night. I could see things Becca couldn't see, like the top of the curtains in our dark room. So it definitely seems like my sensitivity is enhanced.

I tried to read a magazine last night but I think because my eyes had trouble focusing I couldn't read very fast. Still now, when I look at my whiteboard, reading itself seems like much more of an effort. It still comes fairly automatically but it's much more... I bet if I measured my reading speed it would be much slower now than it was before I started.

The visual world is amazing.

After survival school I said that, I made the radical claim which I knew was radical when I was making it, that the last sense I would want someone to take away from me would be my sense of taste because it brought me such great pleasure after survival school. When I got to eat all the great foods that we have and not the same monotonous gruel.

But now I take it all back. I had taste during that whole time. I think taste perhaps is the sense that has the greatest capacity for pleasure. But it is vision that tells you almost everything about the world. Vision is by far the most useful sense, at least for us and our environment. But I suspect perhaps for everything. It just gives you the most efficient way to measure space.

I do think part of me may have just... I look around and even this orange Sham-Wow... I guess I just forgot what color looked like. At least some colors. Reds and browns don't seem to be, but some of these yellows and especially the blues, they just really pop. And I think I had forgotten it.

I don't think I can actually imagine color or even dream color. I had one dream where the green was more green than any green I'd ever seen before. The green in the blades of grass. But other than that I think color plays a pretty weak role in my dreams. I was dreaming visually almost every night and I think I could remember my dreams a bit better because they were my only pseudo-visual experience while I was depriving myself.

It's quite cool to look around now and just see all the stuff I had been imaging in my head and to see how it's so much more than what I had imagined.

Especially things that are complicated. Like the stack of dishes or the trees and the leaves.

I wonder if this is why blue had always been my favorite color while I was little. Maybe it had this pop unlike all the other colors and maybe that's why, that's really what caused my attention to it, and why I made it my favorite color.

I also definitely feel like I have trouble shifting my focus. So as I'm focusing on something close to my face and then I go to look far out it takes a second to focus, instead of a few hundred milliseconds. And vice versa: if I'm looking far and I focus close it takes me much longer. So I think my whole focusing muscle system has been relaxed and has lost some of its performance, its efficiency.

I also think my ability to attend to my peripheral vision might be affected. I've been watching this cat as it's been watching this bluebird, ready to pounce. They're probably 10 feet apart. When I look at the bluebird I can't see the cat. I'm probably 30 feet from them. When I look at the cat I can't see the bluebird. So that's what leads me to believe that my ability to attend to things in my periphery is also affected.


Of course all of this heightened blue and violet and greens could be the result of the morning light. But I have a feeling that since I also saw it last night that it isn't.


Feeling dizzy again. I think I'm going to go for a walk around the block but I'm feeling a bit nauseous and a bit dizzy. Maybe my balance system is getting tuned back in.


Just went around a couple blocks. I'm feeling pretty nauseous and dizzy. The blues and purples are still standing out much more, in terms of the flowers and the cars. Not even the purples, the violets.


Even cars that are silver look sort of violet to me. It's really quite odd.


People's faces don't actually look weird, unlike my survival experiment when people's faces did look really weird. So I'm not sure what that's about. Maybe they looked weird because I was comparing them to my face, which I did see, cause I was taking photos of myself. Or maybe it was something to do with the natural environment. [I suspect that there's a difference between no visual input and lots of visual input that lack faces - the latter may make faces look weird while in the former things remain stable]. That's all.

Read comments (5) - Comment

Mike - Feb 29, 2012, 10:53p
Wow, congrats on finishing the week! I have been considering doing the same thing and came across your page. How long did it take for your focus to go back to normal and the dizzy feeling to go away? Same day? Did you ever go back to that library to see if you could recognize anything?

nikhil - Mar 10, 2012, 10:53a
Hi Mike,

Glad to hear you're also interested in doing something like this. If you do it, I'd love to hear about your experience.

My eye focusing was pretty bad right when I opened my eyes that night, but in the morning when I walked around my neighborhood it was pretty fine. The dizzy feeling also subsided by the middle of the next day or so.

One thing I didn't write about is that I got into a pretty serious bike accident when I biked into the lab that morning. I tried jumping a small curb which is normally no problem, but my timing was way off, I jumped too early, landed, and then my bike hit the curb. I flew over the handlebars and landed on my face and hands. I felt concrete scrape under my 2 front teeth. All in all, I was pretty banged up and chipped a bone in my wrist (first broken bone of my life). Everything healed up fine, but the point is that the hand-eye timing may take a while longer to get synchronized again.

I haven't gone back to the library yet. I should.

Olivia - Jun 23, 2013, 4:48p
Great job on the experiment! I was wondering, if visual deprivation even for just a few hours can improve someone's eyesight (did I get that right?), is that a permanent effect or is it just temporary? If it is only temporary, how long do you think the effects of having an improved vision will last? Lastly, if the effects are temporary, do you suggest that I do visual deprivation regularly just so I could prolong the experience of an improved vision? Thank you and I hope to hear from you soon! I hope this improves my vision especially at night since I have a hard time seeing at night... I think it's something called night blindness

nikhil - Jun 24, 2013, 6:20a
Hi Olivia,

I don't think the right way to think about the effect was visual deprivation had on me was to improve my vision. It did make me very sensitive to depth and color perception, but I don't think it improved my acuity or night vision. You could try it to see for yourself. Also, I think each episode of deprivation might need to be pretty prolonged, perhaps 1-2 days at least.

Olivia - Jun 26, 2013, 5:52p
Alright! I will definitely try it for a day. I tried it for an hour and I ended up falling asleep. Thank you so much :)

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