"Forbidden Colors" and how you might see them

Fascinating! Scientists were able to make people see “forbidden colors” – real colors we can’t normally see due to how human visual processing works – using an eye-tracking device. Could this could be replicated using VR+eye-tracking? If you learned to see forbidden colors using specialized equipment, could you experience them in dreams?

Red-Green & Blue-Yellow: The Stunning Colors You Can’t See

Try to imagine reddish green — not the dull brown you get when you mix the two pigments together, but rather a color that is somewhat like red and somewhat like green. Or, instead, try to picture yellowish blue — not green, but a hue similar to both yellow and blue.

Is your mind drawing a blank? That’s because, even though those colors exist, you’ve probably never seen them. Red-green and yellow-blue are the so-called “forbidden colors.” Composed of pairs of hues whose light frequencies automatically cancel each other out in the human eye, they’re supposed to be impossible to see simultaneously.

The limitation results from the way we perceive color in the first place. Cells in the retina called “opponent neurons” fire when stimulated by incoming red light, and this flurry of activity tells the brain we’re looking at something red. Those same opponent neurons are inhibited by green light, and the absence of activity tells the brain we’re seeing green. Similarly, yellow light excites another set of opponent neurons, but blue light damps them. While most colors induce a mixture of effects in both sets of neurons, which our brains can decode to identify the component parts, red light exactly cancels the effect of green light (and yellow exactly cancels blue), so we can never perceive those colors coming from the same place.

Almost never, that is. Scientists are finding out that these colors can be seen — you just need to know how to look for them…

This article is quite interesting and goes well with Am I Dreaming? by Night Club guest James Kingsland, which I recently finished and would highly recommend.