[ Stroboscopic light machines and seeing visual patterns and colours || Why do I see patterns and what causes psychedelic imagery || What causes psychedelic imagery || The patterns in my eyes from flashing light ]
Fancy a drug free, legal psychedelic trip at the push of a button?
I’m always amazed and appreciative of how many comments I get from people who try a psychedelic light session and come out of it with WOW written all over their face.
And then when they ask how it works and I start with the fact that it is only pure white LED’s that are working through closed eyelids they are shocked. Sometimes they don’t believe me because of how much colour they saw. There are variables between what one person will see and what another will, and even things like how hydrated a person is has an effect. But there are also some of what is called ‘constant form factors’ that almost everyone experiences. So how and why does this happen? Why do we get visual patterns, colours and movement from flickering light based light machines (sometimes referred to as mind machines).
Stroboscopic light machines and seeing visual patterns and colours
Stroboscopic light and sound devices can produce some powerful visual psychedelic and kaleidoscopic effects. Unlike actual drugs this can be done safely with total control over how intense the experience is. These effects have both a scientific explanation and an experience very close to an actual psychedelic drug experience. Colours, shapes and mandala patterns move and turn in your minds eye which often bring with it an associated feeling that is often quite intense.
The easiest way to do this is with a strobing/flickering lamp or light machine with LED’s. LED’s have the ability to turn on and off very fast compared to traditional lighting. It is this fast on off frequency of light that primarily creates this effect.
“Holy **** that was epic.., you’ve nailed it! That was just like a real trip, with a build up of intensity of moving patterns and colours followed by a more layed back period of my own images and what felt like connections to spirit in different forms. Bro that was seriously cool.”
A friend after trying the roXiva session ‘AYAHUASCA JOURNEY’
Two types of hallucination
There are two types of visual effect experienced by users of sessions experienced on light machines. There are life like hallucinations of perhaps a person or object or movie like experience. And there are the more abstract psychedelic and geometric visual moving patterns and colours that draw you into a world unlike anything you may have experienced before.
Many users of such sessions report it being just like an actual experience they have had on a recreational drug.
This article is mainly about the psychedelic type of experience although both often happen together.
Is some cases sound, electrical stimulation, pressure on the eyes, certain mental disorders and even sensory deprivation can have this visual effect. These are usually more accurately attributed to memory based hallucinations (Eidetic imagery) rather than psychedelic Phosphene (Entoptic imagery) effects although both are linked.
What the difference is between the two is described below in the first explanation of three different science approaches to this effect. Obviously drugs like LSD, MDMA, DMT, psilocybin (magic mushrooms), mescaline, opium, ayahuasca, cannabis and other psychoactive drugs (classed as Entheogens) have this effect in varying degrees as well.
Why do I see colours and patterns in my mind with strobing light
The roXiva RX1 uses high powered LED’s synchronised with sound to take you on journeys of discovery or train your brain to desirable states of mind.
Called an Audio Visual Entrainment or Brainwave Entrainment device.., or sometimes referred to as a light machine.., such technology takes advantage of our brains natural ability to synchronise to, and follow, external rhythm and frequency.
Although not the main focus of the RX1 device on this website, many of the sessions made for our clients give a visual experience along with the physical and mental feelings and states of mind.
Light interference patterns
Flickering or strobing light at certain frequencies (mainly Alpha and Beta) cause interference patterns in the way they stimulate or inhibit neurons and cells of the eye and visual cortex. This results in vivid, colourful and sometimes twisting and turning geometric repeating patterns like grids and webs and spirals etc.
And the real point of interest is that users of actual psychedelic drugs report not just similar visual experiences but also similar feelings to go along with it. This makes sense in that the brain stores modes of memory in clusters that include visual, auditory and kinaesthetic/feeling components all linked together to create a whole. So by stimulating one of those modes, often the rest will follow.
“Truly magical. I’ve never experienced anything like that before in my life. I was part of a journey and surrounded by beautiful colours and patterns synchronised to music and sounds. The session ‘Spaceship Dream’ is a work of art and left a smile on my face all night. Thank you so much”
Below are three different approaches to explaining this psychedelic effect. All three have differences and similarities and combine in my opinion into a pretty good idea of what is going on.
This is my attempt to humanise the science of this phenomenon a little.
The reality though.., is that you really have to try it to get what the experience is like.
Explanation number one:
The nerdy but interesting science bit…
What causes psychedelic imagery
The most common reported experience when having a psychedelic ‘trip’ is that of images and geometric patterns that move and change.
These geometric and kaleidoscopic patterns are referred to visually as Phosphenes.
This imagery is not limited to drug induced experiences though.
External light or electric stimulation can also have this same effect.
The general understanding of how these patterns, colours and images are formed is that they are the result of excitation and inhibition of neurons and the interaction of the circular cells of the eye and the relatively straight ones in the visual cortex.
All this destabilisation, excitation and interference causes us to see something that is more than the sum of it’s parts.
Entoptic and Eidetic hallucinations
These type of hallucinations that are formed between the eye and the brain are called Entoptic hallucinations and are predictable in form from person to person.
This is in contrast to Eidetic hallucinations that come from imagery based on memories that are person specific.
Over the course of a psychedelic experience, imagery will often start as Entoptic and progress to Eidetic or be a blend of the two. EEG measurements show a corresponding change in brainwaves from the higher Beta and Gamma waves to the lower Theta hypnotic effect waves.
Some drugs like Ayahuasca have both elements in them. One part of the drug induces high brainwaves and one part is more of a hypnotic that produces lower brainwaves.
Retinal (eye) cells operate by way of either being excited or inhibited and after excitation, the loss of stability and neural saturation generates a time lag of calming down again that can last up to about 15 seconds.
This time lag is what interacts with new stimulations to give movement and an increasing complexity in geometric patterns being formed in the images.
Theses visual effects happen in frequency terms in the Theta and Gamma range of frequencies. IE: They happen in the range of consciousness.
Any drug that interrupts that normal frequency band of consciousness will likely cause the same phosphene visual effects.
Here’s another good article on Entoptic phenomenon that talks about the history of it’s study both scientifically, and it’s use by ancient cultures who considered seeing such imagery as a window into the in-between worlds.
Explanation number two:
More nerdy but interesting science stuff…
The patterns in my eyes from flashing light
The visual cortex it seems, is active even without stimulation.
Drug interference, headaches and light flicker can and do produce hallucinatory effects in a persons visual field even with the eyes closed.
Here in this study the hypothesis is that these shapes and colours are produced by the interaction of both the stimulated cells and the previously stimulated cells that have a type of reverse negative shadow effect.
Have you ever looked at a bright light and then closed your eyes and seen a kind of reverse image of the same shape of the light in your visual field (as if it’s on the back of your eyelids)?
Now imagine that happening multiple times per second.
That, combined with a new actual image of a similar but slightly different stimulated pattern (in the case of light induced effects) also happening multiple times per second combine to create the latices, honeycomb, spiral and circle effects with colour that are basically hallucinations.
Eye cells are specialised
Cells within the eye are specific to how they react to stimulation. IE: One type of cell/neuron may only ‘fire’ in response to vertical lines while another may only fire in response to horizontal lines. And how these two dimensional lines then combine creates the three dimensional straight or curving images, mandala’s and kaleidoscopic effects that are comparable to drug induced psychedelic experiences.
So really the patterns and colour we see from flickering light or pattern (the methods used in this study), are most likely the result of the interaction of image and anti-image.
And being that experiments like this produce surprisingly close results between participants, shows that this anatomical scientific explanation has at least some basis for explaining this effect.
Explanation number three:
Still more science stuff… (I know right.., enough already)
More on visual hallucinations and kaleidoscopes
How and why do we see hallucinogenic patterns when we ingest a drug or in the case of light induced hallucination, simply observe flickering or stroboscopic light?
Think of it this way.
How does an animal get it’s spots?
Both answers have things in common.
In the case of spots on your pet dog, the genetic markers of pigment have two types of gene.., ones that involve activation and ones that involve suppression or inhibition.
One type will activate for example the colour black while suppressing white, and some will activate the colour white while suppressing black. So each has a dual role of activation and suppression.
And therefore each has more than one chance of ‘winning’ the colour role creating the opportunity for randomness. If there is a tip in balance for whatever reason from one to another you get a chemical reaction that quickly spreads and creates an area of activation surrounded by suppression. IE. you get a spot on your dogs fur.
Natures way of creating diversity and ensuring the survival of a species.
And it makes for some cute doggie looks.
Cells in the eyes, and in fact the brains influence on what we ‘see’ in our minds eye, play a similar role but with more permutations.
Cell activation and suppression
Some cells only activate in response to vertical lines, some to horizontal lines and some to 45 degree angle lines. Some to shade and some to light.
And some do this by way of activating other cells and some by suppressing other cells.
These specialist ‘tuned’ cells then feed all this information to the visual cortex and brain to be decoded into a picture or pattern.
Naturally some of these activations and suppressions are achieved faster than others.
As one cell is recovering from stimulation it may be re-stimulated again before it has finished. Or the information from it may be a fraction of a second slower or faster to reach the brain than another similar cells information.
In normal vision our brains have learnt to decode this into a predictable reality.
Two dimensions to three
We actually see a two dimensional flat world. This then gets translated into three dimensions and a cohesive picture depending on the balance of rapidly firing neurons and slowly firing or suppressed ones. And this happens primarily in lines only.
Stripes and hexagons show similar patterns to that of fluid dynamics, like when sound or vibration interferes with water. When we see circles and spirals they are actually the result of a series of lines at varying angles of orientation to each other that create the illusion of smooth shape.
In the case of drugs or any significant external chemical or physical stimulation effecting these cells.., when you add thousands of these pieces of information together slightly offset but in a symmetrical way.., you get patterns in the visual field that range from static black and white grid shapes, to moving geometric kaleidoscope’s of colour, spirals and even tunnel effects.
Psychedelic trip with no side effects
Drugs can effect the neurons in this way as can migraine headaches, pressure on the eyeball itself, or observation of repeating patterns or flickering lights.
Flickering/stroboscopic light (mainly through closed eyes) can also produce psychedelic experiences similar to drugs like LSD, magic mushrooms and DMT. The difference is that you are in control of how long or how intense you want it to be and when you stop, the effect stops. Other than wanting more and leaving with a smile on your face, there are no side effects of a drug free light machine trip.
[Note: The reason closed eyes will usually produce a more impactful experience with strobing/flickering light, is that the eyelid itself becomes the dispersal point of light and envelopes the whole visual field instead of just one point in front of you]
Original research paper as a PDF: Original research as PDF
Want to try it? I’m not suggesting you try any drug to get this effect but you could try a light machine such as the roXiva RX1 which also has the addition of sound matched to the light for a more immersive drug free psychedelic experience.
A final thought…
There is science behind this psychedelic experience that people have with roXiva and this type of technology for sure.., and then there is the magic!!!
Sometimes you just have to experience something to know what I mean when I say that with everything I have learnt about BWE and AVE.., there is just sometimes (actually more often than I am giving it credit for) something more than the sum of it’s parts that happens. Science tries to either explain or dismiss some of these experiences but the experiencer knows what they know regardless.
Psychedelic sessions may be exciting and cool and mind blowing in a good way.., but much like the real psychedelic drugs out there.., often I hear people remark that it was more than a cool ‘trip’.
Not saying it happens for everyone but it does happen.
Some people have had one session and it’s changed their lives.., literally.
I welcome you to contact your nearest roXiva partner or us directly to arrange a session for yourself.