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AndyMittelman's picture

filling in the blanks


            I was particularly fascinated by our discussion of color blindness this week. Like Lauren, I am curious to know more about some of the evolutionary aspects. Is there any advantage to missing certain photoreceptors? Someone mentioned in class that certain people with color blindness are more effective at detecting camouflage. I would be curious to know if there are any “natural” applications of color blindness. Also, how is this manifested in the animal kingdom? I would think that it could be a serious problem for certain wild species. On the other hand, if a certain species existed in a very colorful environment, perhaps an absence of certain photoreceptors would serve as a welcome simplification of their chaotic surroundings.

            We have discussed how our brain “fills in” lapses in sensory perception. If input is blocked (such as by the blind spot in our vision), then our brain can subconsciously plug in what is likely the appropriate missing link. This occurs without our conscious consent. This makes me wonder if our brain could fill in color in the case of color blindness. Is it possible that our brain could recognize certain shades or textures and “color it” such that we perceive color without the appropriate photoreceptors? Theoretically, if we can fill in shades and spots in our blind spot, then maybe we can fill in color as well. Is it possible that we could be color blind and not even know it because our brains are “picking up the slack” of our photoreceptors? This may be an extreme example of what the brain fills in, but it seems clear that our brain does indeed fill in small “blips.” Hence, what is the limit of what our brain could “fill in?” Could our brains be filling in more than we might expect? Maybe we’re not actually “seeing” anything but rather out brains are just filling in everything according to expectations.

            I am very interested by the mechanism through which our body fills in what we don’t actually input from the senses. What is actually going on when we complete the line in the blind spot? Like other bodily mechanisms, can it be impaired/enhanced through substances, disuse, or training?  If it is like the stitch-work that we are doing constantly with our eyes, can it be affected by damage to the nervous system or the brain? I’d be curious to look into how injury affects our ability to piece together missing sensory inputs…maybe a good web paper topic.


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