Tag Archives: health

green light may cure your headache

I get migraines. Not often. Just a few times each year. But when I get one I have been known to turn off the lights and go to sleep in my office. I have found that taking a pain killer and then going to sleep is the only way to relieve my symptoms. But a study in the journal Brain suggests that exposure to green light actually has a beneficial effect.


In the study 80 percent of subjects reported intensification of headache with exposure to high intensity of light, except green. Surprisingly, the researchers found that exposure to green light reduced pain 20 percent. They also found that the signals generated in the retina for green light are smaller than those signals generated for red and blue light. Researchers are now trying to develop a more affordable light bulb that emits pure narrow-band wavelength of green light and sunglasses that can block out all colours of light except narrow-band green light.

high blood pressure affects colour vision


Drinking alcohol not only affects your speech and balance. It can also affect your colour vision. Not just alcohol. Various drugs (some contraceptives and analgesics, for example) make you less good at discriminating between colours. And there are a load of medical conditions that also affect your colour vision including MS and diabetes. In fact, often a deterioration in colour vision can be one of the first indications of a problem. This is why it is a good idea, from a health perspective, to have your vision checked by a qualified professional on a regular basis.

Now some research from Japan suggests that deterioration in colour vision may be a predictor of hypertension – a condition in which the arteries have persistently elevated blood pressure. The study looked at 872 men aged between 20 and 60. They found that, when other factors were taken into account, as blood pressure values rose, the odds of having impaired colour vision increased as well.

For further information see here.

Can colour save lives?

I have worked in colour for pretty much all my working life. Though it has led to a rewarding and stimulating career (with a little bit of success) and though my passion for colour has never waned, I do sometimes wonder if i could have put my life to something more useful. Not that colour is not useful, far from it, but what I mean is something that could save lives. For example, perhaps I could have become a researcher looking into a cure for cancer. Compared with research like that, doesn’t colour sometimes seem frivolous and secondary?

So my Friday morning today was just cheered up a little when I came across an article in the Grundig about how colour-changing technology could revolutionise the medical industry. Apparently, 1.3 million people die each year because of unsafe injections, making the humble injection the most dangerous clinical procedure in the world. Part of the problem is that syringes are sometimes accidentally reused without sterilisation.


In response to this serious issue, David Swann at the University of Huddersfield – just down the road from where I work – developed a “behaviour-changing syringe” that warns when the needle is unsafe. Once opened the syringe turns bright red within sixty seconds. It’s not even expense. Apparently a standard syringe costs 2.5 pence whereas the “behaviour-changing syringe” costs 2.65 pence.

See the original article here.

don’t go down dark alleys

A report in the Scunthorpe Telegraph describes a project where alleyways – traditionally dark, lined with brick walls or fences, with no colour and plenty of possibilities for crime – are being filled with plants to create a colourful and welcoming environment. A recent report by the Royal Horticultural Society shows that this sort of activity has a significant positive effect on communities.

For further information visit www.rhs.org.uk/communities.

I am not a gardener. I don’t particularly like gardens. But this does seem like a great scheme. And I do think that colour can have an effect on our well-being. Perhaps we should use it more carefully – whether it is to correct situations where we are bombarded with a myriad clashing colours that can be disorienting (for example, in a shopping mall or airport terminal) or where there is a lack of colour (for example, dark alleys or many hospital environments).

changing eye colour

On my way to CIC – my favourite colour conference – http://www.imaging.org/IST/conferences/cic/.

A six hour lay-over in Chicago so no excuse not to make a few posts. The first interesting bit of news I just came across is a story in the BBC about a doctor who seems to have developed a laser technique to change eye colour.

Apparently 20 secs of laser treatment can remove the pigment in eyes so that brown eyes become blue. You can read more about the story here. Don’t try this at home though – they are still conducting safety tests and some experts think the treatment could lead to other health problems.

unhealthy orange

Lucozade is a high-energy drink that is very effective way to get a lot of sugar very quickly. Most people will know that the drink itself is a very distinctive orange colour. The orange is caused by the colorant Sunset Yellow which is among a number of suspect food additives. Research at Southampton University, funded by the Food Standards Agency, has found that this is one of several additives that may cause children to become hyperactive. According to a UK national newspaper – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1256242/Lucozade-lose-orange-colour-linked-hyperactivity.html – Lucozade bottles will carry a warning label (‘Sunset Yellow may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children’) until a suitable alternative colorant can be found.

depressed people feel more gray than blue

People with anxiety and depression are most likely to use a shade of gray to represent their mental state. 

Peter Whorwell, Professor of Medicine and Gastroenterology at University Hospital South Manchester, worked with a team of researchers from the University of Manchester, UK, to create an instrument that would allow people a choice of colours in response to questions. He said, “Colours are frequently used to describe emotions, such as being ‘green with envy’ or ‘in the blues’. Although there is a large, often anecdotal, literature on color preferences and the relationship of color to mood and emotion, there has been relatively little serious research on the subject”.

The researchers have developed a colour chart, The Manchester Color Wheel, which can be used to study people’s preferred colour in relation to their state of mind.

For more information see http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewItem.aspx?ItemId=67637&CultureCode=en

cure for colour blindness

One of the reasons I enjoy travelling by train is that it gives me an opportunity to read a newspaper from front to back (something I very much enjoy but rarely have time to do). Yesterday I was travelling to Bristol where I was delivering a lecture at the IMPACT6 Printmaking conference on colour management and took the train from Leeds to Bristol during which I was able to read The Times. I couldn’t fail to notice the story about a potential cure for colour blindness – http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/science/medicine/article6837392.ece

Congenital red-green colour blindness occurs when either the L- or M-cone class is either missing (making the sufferer a dicromat) or shifted in terms of peak wavelength of sensitivity (resulting in anomalous trichromacy) – see http://colourware.wordpress.com/2009/07/04/colour-blindness-news/.

Scientists working at the universities of Seattle and Florida have restored normal colour vision to two colour-blind monkeys by injecting a virus with a modified gene (called L opsin) that is known to be responsible for red-green colour blindness. The success of this work is remarkable in that it suggests that the brain is able to rewire itself to take advantage of the new receptors. 24 weeks after the injection the monkeys were able to correctly distinguish patterns of grey, green and red dots that they had previously been unable to distinguish.


Jay Neitz, professor ophthalmology at the University of Washington, is now looking to start work that could lead to a similar treatment for humans.

The work has just been published in Nature – http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090916/full/news.2009.921.html 

Colour personality test

There has long been an interest in trying to predict aspects of personality based on colour preferences. The Lüscher test is perhaps the best known example. There are a number of on-line tests that purport to be based on Max Lüscher’s system, for example, http://www.colorquiz.com/. In this test you are asked to select eight coloured patches in order of preference. These are the patches:


So I just did the test on-line and these were some of the things the test said about me:

“Craves change and new things, always looking for new adventures and activities. Becomes restless and frustrated when he has to wait to long for things to develop. His impatience leads to irritability and a desire to move on to the next project.”

“Highly optimistic and outgoing personality. Loves to learn new and exciting things, and craves new interests. Looking for a well-rounded life full of success and new experiences. Does not allow himself to be overcome with negative thoughts or self-doubt. Takes life head on, with enthusiasm. “

Well, it’s interesting, because it does sound a little bit like me to be honest. Does anyone who knows me agree? But then, we should be aware of  the Forer effect (also called personal validation fallacy): the observation that individuals will give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of their personality that supposedly are tailored specifically for them, but are in fact vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people. We all tend to do this with horoscopes in the daily newspapers. So, I tried the test again – this time using a random colour selection – and these were the corresponding statements:

“Is a little on the lazy side when it comes to putting forth a lot of effort. Needs to build roots and have a peaceful, loving partner.”

Relies on love and friendship to bring him happiness. He is in constant need for approval and this makes him willing to help others in exchange for love and understanding. He is open to new ideas as long as they are productive and interesting.

These certainly don’t sound so much like me. Perhaps there is something in it. Of course, we would need to do a proper scientific study to really get to the bottom of what is going on. Which brings me to the purpose of this post – today I came across a colour personality test that does seem to have had some statistical/scientific validation. The test is called the Dewey Color System (http://www.deweycolorsystem.com/). This test has been assessed with a scientific study conducted by Rense Lange and Jason Rentfrow, the latter being a Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Cambridge (UK). The work has not yet been published but a “pre-journal white paper report” can be downloaded – http://www.deweycolorsystem.com/credentials/proven.html. I will leave it to you to read the report and make your own conclusions.

Rose-tinted lenses

In a previous post – http://colourware.wordpress.com/2009/07/04/colour-blindness-news/ – I expressed sceptisism about whether coloured contact lenses or spectacles can improve colour discrimination in colour-blind observers. Today I came across a related story about the use of coloured lenses to improve reading in some people suffering from migraines and/or learning difficulties. It seems to be news in Australia – http://www.theage.com.au/lifestyle/wellbeing/tinted-lenses-bring-words-into-living-colour-20090712-dhfe.html – but I have been aware of research that coloured transparencies can help with reading for many years now. Apparently certain people respond better with certain colours – but I wonder why?