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← Sky-blue-pink. A colour never before seen?

jon_the_d's Avatar Jump to comment 1 by jon_the_d

I've been considering these points recently too, particularly echo-locating and smelling in "colour", where the animal has enough information coming in to that particular sense for the brain to construct an 'image' of their surroundings using that sense, and would most likely use 'colours' to 'display' that image to the brain. I analogized it with false colour photos we see of x-ray emissions or heat etc. Particularly in animals whose sight is of secondary importance, so for example perhaps bats, moles, and some deep sea fish.

Although if you consider hearing, where certain animals are able to pinpoint the origin of the sound, and have a full 360 representation of the aural surroundings, I think we can assume through our own experience that the sounds are identified by their own qualities (amplitude, frequency, wavelength etc.) and it would be hard to reason that blind animals would have evolved an actual 'image' of their surroundings based on the incoming sounds? Perhaps the timbre of a sound is the aural equivalent of colour, and comparing how we ourselves see to how we hear, is the closest we can get to realizing how senses unknown to us may be represented in the brain.

It seems brains have evolved to treat the different senses quite differently, with sight being prioritized as a way of representing our surroundings. Echo-location would be a near approximation and I could see it evolving to actually provide an 'image' to the brain, one which could easily be evolved from greyscale (distance) to colour (distance + texture).

One group of people that it would be interesting to talk to/research, are the blind people who can echo-locate by clicking. Especially one who was born sighted. They may be able to provide some insight into how the brain 'sees' by their clicks.

As for the colour blind people, short of brain surgery, perhaps they will develop a cure of some kind, or even an electronic eye with full colour capability, triggering precisely those unused 'labels' you speak of. Imagine then, if they can then use these techniques to give those born blind full colour vision!! That would be an incredible experience! Not just new colours (amazing enough) but a whole new sense!

Perhaps stem cell research will recreate a functioning eye (didn't they just do a retina? [EDIT: yes they did...kinda.. http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2010/06/01/Early-stage-retina-created-from-stem-cells/UPI-89191275416481/)

If they ever do this, they have to get the first reactions on camera!!!

Updated: Sat, 12 Jun 2010 11:15:22 UTC | #479567