What Happens When the Sun Is Gone?

Monet Sunrise Luminosity

Much of what has been written about color in art is nonsense.Dr. Margaret Livingstone, Vision and Art, The Biology of Seeing

“Impression Sunrise” by Claude Monet (1872) is a phenomenal work of art that became the inspiration for describing an entire genre of artists. The sun, for starters, seems to jump off the painting. The above picture, shows how the sun disappears when seen for luminance alone. I’ve seen this painting and I can attest, “The sun appears so brilliant that it seems to pulsate,” as Livingstone describes it. This was not just a frivolous occurrence, Monet and other impressionists were acutely aware of how to bio-hack visual perception to create brilliant visual phenomena. In this case, matching values of hue.

Until recently, very little was known about how our brain processes information about color. Dr. Margaret Livingstone, Vision and Art, The Biology of Seeing

Rather immediately, the visual perceptive system separates luminance and color. The first division is two very different types of photoreceptors in our eyes, rods and cones. Rods are most sensitive to light and dark changes, shape and movement and contain only one type of light-sensitive pigment. Rods are not good for color vision. In a dim room, however, we use mainly our rods, but we are “color blind.” Cones are most sensitive to one of three different colors (green, red or blue). The distinction continues throughout the visual perceptive system.

prefrontal cortex amygdalaThe part of our brain that sees color is a different part than sees black and white. So What? Well, how do you think Monet bio-hacked color vision to make the sun unbelievably vibrant? That part of our brain than sees luminosity is also the part that sees location and movement. And this part of the brain, looking at the sun in “Impression Sunrise” sees nothing. The result is an awesome vibrancy.

The areas of the our brain that process information about color are located several inches away from the areas that analyze luminance–they are as anatomically distinct as vision is from hearing.Dr. Margaret Livingstone, Vision and Art, The Biology of Seeing

Attempting to emulate Monet, we borrowed his color palette for a huedoku puzzle titled “Sunrise”.

We made our best attempt to pick four corner hues of equal value. The bottom right corner is middle grey. The intention of this puzzle is  that you are pushed out of your locational brain and  placed in a more intuitive part of your brain that distinguishes color.


We have created huedoku to heighten your color perception, and in the process, put you in your human place. Your color place. Most mammals don’t see color like we do. It’s not that other mammals live in a black or white world,  they see many distinctions of value, the level of brightness in an object. But only unique primates, like ourselves, activate this extra conduit of visual perception.

What Where Visual Perception ColorWhere System: Colorblind

  • Earlier evolved.
  • Does not see color.
  • Responsible for motion and depth detection.
  • How most mammals see.
  • More closely related to “fight or flight” our Autonomic nervous system.

What System: Sees Color

  • Distinct from Where System.
  • Does not locate or place.
  • Responsible for face detection, links more directly to language, object recognition.

What do we Achieve by Challenging our Brain to Sort by Hue?

“Mixing and matching colors… incorporates the areas of the cerebral cortex involved in vision and fine motor skills. The relaxation that it provides lowers the activity of the amygdala, a basic part of our brain involved in controlling emotion that is affected by stress,” says psychologist Gloria Martínez Ayala.brain vision parts activated color luminance

The visual perceptive system exists in the eyes with rods and cones, but is mostly processed in the brain. Color is processed more in the parietal and temporal lobe of the brain. All mammals see a similar luminance as we do, but only a few other primates process color like we do.

Human brains experience the visual processes of luminance and color as essentially different. Similarly, , they both move all over the brain and are hard to track. However, it is worth noting that the same brain we might call our reptilian brain, the earlier evolved, which doesn’t see color, is also responsible for our reactions, our autonomic behaviors, that while essential, don’t require any human reasoning, the power of choice and pro-action. The amygdala is a core player in the autonomous reaction of Fight or Flight.

In the above huedoku puzzle in which we selected color from Monet’s painting, we attempted to match in value the orange sun and the sky from blue to violet with the grey in the bottom right corner.

it is imperative to understand that color is important, even essential, in some areas of visual perception and completely irrelevant in others.Dr. Margaret Livingstone, Vision and Art, The Biology of Seeing

We are artists with an avid interest in neuroscience, psychology, opthalmolagy,  and other sciences. With that said, we are creating relationships with experts and participating in our own studies. We propose huedoku is worthy of rich exploration and study including but not limited to Functional MRIs, Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), as well as research with alzhiemers and dementia,

The Core Hypothesis:

The more you play the more you see. Huedoku improves color vision, and we believe the enhanced color acuity you acquire has deep and meaningful impacts on your visual perception and your overall brain health. We know that when humans are in fight-or-flight mode, we are operating from the part of our brain that evolved prior to becoming primates. The part of your brain that processes color is  more recently evolved and is responsible for rational choice-driven thinking.

Enhancing your color vision has immediate impacts on mood,  awareness,  and concentration. Thus, it improves your ability to handle the cognitive and emotional stresses of modern life.

Impression Sunrise

The Level 9 puzzle in huedoku’s “Vanishing Boundaries” Gallery. The intention of all the puzzles in Vanishing Boundaries is that the hue of each swatch is of equal value. According to Photoshop’s interpretation (understood to be quite accurate), the top left color Strikemaster appears near in value to the far opposite corner grey.

What happens when we unleash a tool to offer color mastery to the masses? What is happening in the brain when colors are sorted?

Visual Phenomena

Luminance vs. Hue

The part of the brain that sees under moonlight is the same part of the brain that sees movement, position, depth, value and luminosity. It does not see color. “The areas of our brain that process information about color are located several inches away from the areas that analyze luminance– they are as anatomically distinct as vision in from our hearing.”

Purkinje Shift


We are confident that increasing the brightness of your screen while playing huedoku improves solution times.  We advise maximizing brightness for play.

It is documented that the value of hues changes dependent on the light in the environment. In her book Vision and Art, Livingstone notes:  “As lighting conditions dim,  the relative proportions of rod and cone contributions shift, resulting in the luminance of colors changing: red become darker and the blues become brighter.”

We need further research on the impact of huedoku play regarding: brightness of the screen and lighting conditions of the environment.

Halation: Simultaneous Contrast and How Color is Relative

halation huedoku green pink color is relative

Areas of Interest, Partnerships, and Hypotheses

Color Vision

How many colors do you see? We suggest that before playing huedoku, we create a baseline for your current level of color acuity on the X-Rite Color Test. My personal experience was improving from around 85% score to 97% score after playing huedoku.

The Himba people have been found to categorize colors differently from most Euro-Americans and are able to easily distinguish close shades of green, barely discernible for most people.[23] The Himba have created a very different color scheme which divides the spectrum to dark shades (Zuzu in Himba), very light (Vapa), Vivid blue and green (Buru) and dry colors as an adaptation to their specific way of life.

Brain Aging Health (Alzheimer’s, Dementia)

If kept in good shape, the brain can continue to build pathways that help its owner recognize patterns and, as a consequence, see significance and even solutions much faster than a young person can.

Educators say that, for adults, one way to nudge neurons in the right direction is to challenge the very assumptions they have worked so hard to accumulate while young. With a brain already full of well-connected pathways, adult learners should “jiggle their synapses a bit” by confronting thoughts that are contrary to their own, says Dr. Taylor, who is 66.

“As adults we have these well-trodden paths in our synapses,” Dr. Taylor says. “We have to crack the cognitive egg and scramble it up. And if you learn something this way, when you think of it again you’ll have an overlay of complexity you didn’t have before — and help your brain keep developing as well.”

Jack Mezirow, a professor emeritus at Columbia Teachers College, has proposed that adults learn best if presented with what he calls a “disorienting dilemma,” or something that “helps you critically reflect on the assumptions you’ve acquired.” NYTimes

“Lifestyle factors found in individuals with high cognitive engagement may prevent or slow deposition of beta-amyloid, perhaps influencing the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease” –How Crossword Puzzles May Keep Alzheimer’s AwayALZinfo.org

In a similar yet more powerful way than crossword puzzles, huedoku presents disorienting dilemmas, and could be a useful tool for maintaining brain health into old age.

Color blind: Bichromats


Pictured are two variations on the puzzle “Cafe Terrace Night” from the Van Gogh Gallery in huedoku.

Commonly referred to as “color blind” 1 in 12 men are missing one of the three photoreceptors which results in not seeing red and green. They will see the color spectrum along a yellow and blue axis.

We are creating color palettes that target these folks. The initial ideal example is “Kihei Yellow” from the Maui Colors Gallery– one I found very difficult but which my partner Dave found the easiest. Insight on this triggered our first hypothesis that Dave may be color blind.

More rare cases occur when one is missing the Blue/Yellow spectrum and sees just luminance and colors in the Red/Green Spectrum. Note that each photoreceptor is aligned along complementary colors. Huedoku may also become a color test to determine whether one is colorblind.


tetrachromats-02xPotential human tetrachromacy is a color perception potential arising from the inheritance of X-chromosome-linked human color vision photopigment opsin genes. When applied to an individual it suggests a person possesses gene sequences needed to express four distinct classes of daylight sensitive retinal photoreceptors in their visual system. Individuals with a tetrachromatic potential differ from the majority of people who possess the usual genes for three distinct classes of daylight photoreceptors —– or the basis for the standard model of normal human color vision which typically requires neural possessing among exactly three distinct photoreceptor classes. —Kimberly A. Jameson, Ph.D.

The image at left is likely an easy puzzle to solve for tetrachromats. In fact I, as a certain tri-chromat can see the distinctions of each color even on the bottom row.

This is further affected by the color spectrum and brightness of the screen you are viewing this on. A puzzle that a tetrachromat could theoretically solve would appear like a single block of color to most of us.



Symptoms of dyslexia: positional problems, figure ground problems, trouble gauging distance and depth. Vision issues for dyslexics has been compared to the experience most of us would have trying to read words in color on a background of the same value: bouncy.

dyslexia-02Personal experience sharing huedoku with a girl of 6 years old, recently diagnosed is that Levels 1-6 with clues were confusing and more difficult than puzzles in level 7-12 where “training wheels” did not distort her recognition of color relationship.

Autism/Aspergers Spectrum

WisdomCenter_logo600 Huedoku has partnered with the Wisdom Center in Haiku, Hawaii to share huedoku with children age 8-18 who are on the aspergers autism spectrum. The Wisdom Center is “A learning environment for developmentally challenged and exceptional people dedicated to discovering, supporting and enhancing the potential and contribution of each individual through meaningful opportunities and productive work with a focus on technical capabilities and activities of daily living.”

Our hopes are that sorting colors may be therapeutic and aid with joining. We are meeting once a week, introducing huedoku slowly.

The Wisdom Center for Autism (EIN# 46-3810231) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.


Data Collection:

We propose all users of huedoku, prior to play, test your color vision. An excellent test is offered by X-Rite Pantone based on the Farnsworth Munsell Color Blindness test.

We are currently tracking time and moves it takes to complete different puzzles. We are mapping this back to demographics, primarily gender and age. The following data is only anecdotal. We are currently unaware if we have any tetrachromats in intitial group of 60 testers.


huedoku is not some conceptual art concept. We are talking about re-wiring your visual perception. Gabriel Mott, huedoku

Bibliography and References:

Leonardo’s Colour and Chiaroscuro, by John Shearman 1962
Benefits of Meditation on the Brain Dr. Judson Brewer of the Yale School of Medicine has identified functional changes in the brains of experienced meditators
“Today we know that everything we do, and every experience we have, actually changes the brain.” Eileen Luders, a re-searcher in the Department of Neurology at the University of California Los Angeles School of Medicine
Color Center of the Brain Wikipedia
Why We See What We See, Purves, Lotto, Nundy in American Scientist
How to Train the Aging Brain, nytimes
Alzheimers Association
Color discernment linguistic debate

Tachypsychia is a neurological condition that alters the perception of time, usually induced by physical exertion, drug use, or a traumatic event. Also called the “fight or flight” response of the body to an event our mind considers life-threatening, tachypsychia is believed to include numerous physical changes. It is also common for individuals to experience loss of color vision. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tachypsychia