Learning to see color?
February 7, 2008 4:22 PM   Subscribe

Is there a perceptual (non-physical) component to colorblindness that can be cured or mitigated by training?

I've known for a long time that I have color vision deficiency, but it's only recently through self-testing and research borne of curiosity that I've self-diagnosed moderate protanopia/protanomaly. So I have color vision, it just isn't "correct." I know that I can't grow better photoreceptors, but can I train my brain to be more responsive to those difficult hues, the way that musicians can learn perfect pitch? Are there any methods to accomplish this? Have you found ways to outsmart your weak eyes?
posted by Chris4d to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There is a red-tinted contact lens that you wear in one eye only that makes the differences between colors more stark. It doesn't work if you have severe enough color-blindness. There was also a regular lens being marketed that was supposed to do some kind of active thing to boost the intensity of reds, but I have never seen it come to market in the US.
posted by mzurer at 4:25 PM on February 7, 2008

I have the standard garden variety red-green color blindness. Confusing colors as a youth happened alot more now, owing to the fact that my brain built 1000s of maps and scenarios about color since then. I still don't much better on the standard number tests, though. I do notice that I can barely discern some of the same ones I had trouble seeing the number in when I was younger when I really try to relax my mind/eyes. There's probably a mechanical (not non-physical) action at work then that allows the retinas to refocus or otherwise make better use of the available cones. Perhaps the first part of my answer (building mind maps) is attributable to perceptual rather than non-physical. Having a large box of Crayolas as a kid was really valuable in this regard. But I still dress in conservative colors for fear of mismatches!
posted by Burhanistan at 4:34 PM on February 7, 2008

Confusing colors as a youth happened alot more than now....
posted by Burhanistan at 4:35 PM on February 7, 2008

Musicians don't learn perfect pitch. You either have it or your don't.
posted by BeaverTerror at 6:26 PM on February 7, 2008

I will say that from my experience you will probably think that you are seeing colors better at some point, but the tests will not confirm this. I know of several other color-blind people that share this same affliction with me.
posted by OmieWise at 6:46 PM on February 7, 2008

BeaverTerror, while the ability to learn perfect pitch is disputed, research has shown that certain kinds of training can improve the ear's ability. That's more what I was talking about, in this case, especially as an analogue to illustrate my question. Thanks so much for the help though!
posted by Chris4d at 10:01 PM on February 7, 2008

I'm red-green color deficient as well. It's not a brain training problem. your eyes just aren't picking up certain wavelengths.

That said, in high school chemistry class we did an experiment where half the class closed their eyes for about 15 minutes, and then the other half led them outside where we opened our eyes. We were discussing how the chemical your rods and cones use to transmit can get exhausted and after 15 minutes or so with your eyes closed this chemical builds back up. I swear after 15 minutes in the dark and then going into bright sun light, I saw color differences was unable to see previously, but it quickly faded. Maybe I imagined it, but if red not being bright bothers you that much, you could try this and see if you observe a difference.

or, you could try and become a synesthete. apparently our brains our still perfectly capable of "seeing" colors we've never been sent from our eyes,
posted by jrishel at 4:26 AM on February 8, 2008

I wasn't expecting a magic bullet anyway. These are some interesting ideas I wasn't aware of. Thanks everyone :)
posted by Chris4d at 12:49 PM on February 8, 2008

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