Now there’s an interesting thought…!

This reason that blog has the title of ‘The Colour of My Mind’ is because some years ago when I was searching for a suitable name for my book (this blog is a continuation of the book…), it dawned on me that everything I was writing about, the ideas I put forward, and the observations and the following successes and failures of those ideas, were all centred on the way that I see the world.
So, the mind that has developed within me is a continuing, developing summation of my experiences, observations, perceptions and thoughts, and so, it is a unique mind… just like yours!
To capture this, the title was chosen as a metaphor for the above, because of the obvious parallel with the question of; When I see the colour red, do you see the same colour red?
What I mean is, if I was able to experience what you experience, would I recognise the colour that you perceive as being the same as what I experience? Or is it simply that our experiences teach us that that particular visual stimulus is the same as those around us also call ‘red’?

Are you still with me…?
Good.

So, the interesting thought I just had, is based upon the fact that my sister recently had a Cochlear Implant inserted as her hearing had deteriorated so far that she could hear almost nothing.
After three weeks, the implant was turned on for the first time and she could then hear the world around her in all its glory for the time in many years.
However, there is a bit of a known hurdle to get over first for anyone going through the same experience.
The brain has to re-learn sounds!

To give a quick anatomical lesson, hearing is the ability to detect vibrations in the air (pressure waves) by way of those vibrations being captured and directed by the ‘flappy’ bit of the external ear (the bit you hang your sunglasses on) into and along the ear canal (earhole).
At the far end of the canal is the eardrum (a thin membrane of skin) and is a physical barrier that prevents water, dirt, insects, etc from reaching the inner ear.
As the sound hits it, it vibrates and transfers the pressure waves into a rapid physical movement of three tiny bones in your ear (the Ossicles – the ‘hammer’ which is attached to the eardrum, the ‘anvil’, this is what the hammer hits, and the ‘stirrup’ which looks literally like a horse rider’s stirrup. This stirrup is attached to the side of the Cochlear).
Their movements are further transferred into the Cochlear (another tiny bone that looks a bit like a snail shell and is hollow and filled with fluid) and in there becomes pressure waves again in the fluid.
So when sound travels into the ear, by way of the above action path, it makes this fluid ‘wobble’, and this wobble is picked up by tiny hairs that project from the inner walls of the Cochlear into the fluid. As it wobbles, they wobble. When they wobble an electrical signal is produced and travels along the auditory nerve to the brain.
From there the brain interprets the signals as sound.

Sooo… you might be wondering where am I going with this?
Well, as can be seen above, the brain does not get to actually hear sound. It only gets the chance to interpret electrical signals in a learned fashion.
When it comes to seeing a colour, the electrical signal that reaches the brain comes via a different mechanism, but ends as being an electrical signal that requires interpreting nonetheless.

In my sister’s case, the tiny hairs had all but disappeared, so the vibrations weren’t getting turned into electrical signals.
If I understand correctly, the Cochlear Implant is an electrode that is placed into the tiny snail-like bone (that’s bloody amazing on its own!) and the electrical signals are emitted from it for the nerve endings to pick up.
After my sister had the implant turned on, she reported that the first thing she could hear was Geese… then Ducks… but she wasn’t anywhere near a farm or wildfowl sanctuary… everything just sounded like that!!
This was the interpretation that her brain was making of the new method of receiving the electrical signals.

Shortly afterwards, her brain started making the links between what she was seeing and the sound that it was supposed to be hearing… then things started to make more sense to her conscious mind.

Personally I found this absolutely fascinating, but now I’ve just realised that her brain was deciding what those visual stimuli should actually be sounding like, based upon what it believes! …i.e. what it has previously experienced.
In other words, the sound of a glass dropping and shattering is interpreted within her brain in a certain way, and when this interpretation is communicated to her conscious mind, she recognises it as the sound of breaking glass.
It is her interpretation.
It is what it sounds like to her.
…therefore it is NOT the same as my interpretation!
It cannot be the same as what I hear!
It is only by association between the action and the stimulus that we both understand what the stimulus actually is!

So… when she sees the colour red, she does not see the same colour as what I see.
She only sees what she interprets as red.

To take this just a smidgen further… we must each see our own personal version of the world around us.
And so, what I am witness to is the same as what you witness, but my experience is different, even though the association is the same.

Utterly fascinating!!!

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