New research proves color is not a black and white issue

November 30, 2011

Scientists at the University of Hull have found that some people have the ability to hallucinate colours at will – even without the help of hypnosis.

The study, published this week in the journal Consciousness and Cognition, was carried out in the Department of Psychology at the University of Hull. It focused on a group of people that had shown themselves to be 'highly suggestible' in hypnosis.

The subjects were asked to look at a series of monochrome patterns and to see colour in them. They were tested under hypnosis and without hypnosis and both times reported that they were able to see colours.

Individuals' reactions to the patterns were also captured using an MRI scanner, which enabled the researchers to monitor differences in between the suggestible and non-suggestible subjects. The results of the research, showed significant changes in brain activity in areas of the brain responsible for visual perception among the suggestible subjects only.

Professor Giuliana Mazzoni, lead researcher on the project says: "These are very talented people. They can change their perception and experience of the world in ways that the rest of us cannot."

The ability to change experience at will can be very useful. Research has shown that hypnotic suggestions can be used to block pain and increase the effectiveness of psychotherapy.

It has always been assumed that hypnosis was needed for these effects to occur, but the new study suggests that this is not true. Although hypnosis does seem to heighten the subjects' ability to see colour, the suggestible subjects were also able to see colours and change their brain activity even without the help of hypnosis.

The MRI scans also showed clearly that although it was not necessary for the subjects to be under hypnosis to be able to perceive colours in the tests, it was evident that hypnosis increased the ability of the subjects to experience these effects.

Dr William McGeown, who also contributed to the study, says: "Many people are afraid of hypnosis, although it appears to be very effective in helping with certain medical interventions, particularly pain control. The work we have been doing shows that certain people may benefit from suggestion without the need for hypnosis."

The study, which was partially funded by the BBC, used a control group formed of less suggestible people, or people less likely to respond to hypnosis. It was found that this group of people were not able to hallucinate colour and, again, these reported results were supported by MRI scans.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Rat brain atlas provides MR images for stereotaxic surgery

October 21, 2016

Boris Odintsov, senior research scientist at the Biomedical Imaging Center at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, and Thomas Brozoski, research professor ...

ALS study reveals role of RNA-binding proteins

October 20, 2016

Although only 10 percent of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) cases are hereditary, a significant number of them are caused by mutations that affect proteins that bind RNA, a type of genetic material. University of California ...

Imaging technique maps serotonin activity in living brains

October 20, 2016

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that's partly responsible for feelings of happiness and for mood regulation in humans. This makes it a common target for antidepressants, which block serotonin from being reabsorbed by neurons ...

Overcoming egocentricity increases self-control

October 19, 2016

Neurobiological models of self-control usually focus on brain mechanisms involved in impulse control and emotion regulation. Recent research at the University of Zurich shows that the mechanism for overcoming egocentricity ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.