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Seeing in the dark (I don't know where else to post this)

Callling science/neurology/medicine  people!!
I've made an intriguing discovery.
It's something I thought everybody did, and I just discovered the other day that nobody else seems to. Hm.

It's hard to get my head around trying to explain it because for me it was just a given, normal thing.
When I am sitting in the dark, what I call "natural" dark as in no lights on, or if I wake up at night and look around me, I see the darkness as sort of granulated. If I pay close attention I can see those granulations as being of different shades of colours. Not bright, the tones are muted, but definitely different dots of colour. Sort of like grains of sand, all piled up, or like those eye tests where they "hide" a number in dots of color on a background. Or like a pointilist painting. I thought this was normal. That everyone saw the dark this way. But by the openmouthed responses I've gotten, I guess not.
Now, if I put my head under a blanket in the dark, for example, and exclude all possibility of light, I don't get that. Then indeed it is black dark, "can't see your hand in front of your face" dark. Like black velvet, solid dark.
I have described this so badly...but as I say it is hard for me to describe something I thought was normal to everyone. I happened to say to DH last week, "You know how when you wake up in the dark and you see those little dots of colour in the air, it's like that." referring to the texture of something else. Pause. Pause. Look of disbelief on his face. "What ARE you talking about?"
I have always seen them and I thought everyone did. One of my earliest memories, I must have been about 4, was noticing the colours in the darkness. I never mentioned it to anyone because, yeah--to me it was normal.
Why am I telling you? I don't know. But it was quite a discovery for me.
I suppose you will tell me I'm the first person you've heard of who sees the "granulated" effect. It doesn't go away either. It's just "there." all the time.

And now I wonder why I do it if no one else does.
I'm interested to hear what you think.

Hmmmm. I'm not sure. Is it possible you are just describing it in a way people don't recognize? The thing is, I've never really thought about how colors appear in low light, so maybe it's "granular" too, it's just not something I've thought to examine. You know what I mean?
OBSERVATIONAL STUDY: look around at night tonight

If it's different, I'm wondering if there's something different about the rod/cone ratio in the fovea of your eye, or your ability to see at low levels of light. Supposedly people with darker irises are better at taking in lots of light, so maybe that affects things. The reason I mention it is because animals who are crepuscular have limited number of and types of cones, and are better-suited for low levels of light for various reasons (one of which is the tapetum lucidum, which i doubt is the answer, but if you had one that would be INTERESTINGLY AWESOME). Are you color blind in any way, you think? Do you think you see better (or worse) in the dark than most others?

... i found a similar, but entirely unhelpful entry on the internets:
http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090714204849AAlDaH0
(at least you're not alone!)

eta: i found some similar-sounding cases that describe the vision as "snowy" or "staticky," being worse at night. is that similar to what you have?
... and of course, any questions about that ^ on the internet have gone unanswered :)

eta II: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visual_snow

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I don't have any insight, but I see the granulated darkness thing too.  And I'm pretty sure I remember a childhood friend talking about it before as well.  So at least you're not the only one. :)

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I don't have any insight, but I see the granulated darkness thing too.  And I'm pretty sure I remember a childhood friend talking about it before as well.  So at least you're not the only one. :)

Thanks PG!
I do have trouble differentiating certain blues and greens, or navy blue and black. Not all blues/greens, just some shades. And to me many of  the traffic lights here look blue, not green. Maybe they are!
My eyes are blue hazel, and I have synasthesia for sound. I percieve sound as having shape. I don't see the shapes, I "feel" them inside me if that makes any sense. I was premature, and have something called "colpotrophia" which apparently should have led to blindness/imbecility, niether of which are my problem, though I am very nearsighted.

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I think the inability to see complete blackness goes along with nearsightedness. I read a book about naturally improving your eyesight and apparently this is bad, something to do with a mental blockage or something... I can't see complete black either :/

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I don't have any insight, but I see the granulated darkness thing too.  And I'm pretty sure I remember a childhood friend talking about it before as well.  So at least you're not the only one. :)

Thanks PG!
I do have trouble differentiating certain blues and greens, or navy blue and black. Not all blues/greens, just some shades. And to me many of  the traffic lights here look blue, not green. Maybe they are!
My eyes are blue hazel, and I have synasthesia for sound. I percieve sound as having shape. I don't see the shapes, I "feel" them inside me if that makes any sense. I was premature, and have something called "colpotrophia" which apparently should have led to blindness/imbecility, niether of which are my problem, though I am very nearsighted.

I think the deal with traffic lights is they make the green lights more of a blue-green, and the red lights an orangey-red, so people with red/green colorblindness can still tell them apart.  I'm not sure if it works though.

I have blue eyes, but they're really dark blue.  I'm also nearsighted, but my eyesight isn't that bad.  I wear glasses or contacts just because I don't like squinting, but I'd be allowed to drive without them if I wanted to.

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I think this is interesting in combination with your synesthesia. It seems like it could be related in that both experiences have to do with your perception and senses. Have you ever heard of Oliver Sacks? He is a neurologist who studies and writes about really bizarre neurological differences--although yours seems alot less hindering than what he writes of--but it's possibly he's written about something related that might shed some insight.
hmmm....let us know if you find out anything....

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I see the granulated darkness thing too.  Like you, I assumed everyone did.  Lacking any scientific information whatsoever, this is the explanation I made up for myself.  Take it with a grain of salt:
  The brain routinely interpolates information based on limited data.  For example, you can look at an Impressionist painting and see well-defined water-lilies, say, even though when you examine the painting closely you see that the artist just used a few dabs of color.  The brain of a near-sighted person may be more adept at this trick than normal.
    Under extremely low light, the brain simply doesn't have enough data to make a smooth image.  The "granularity" is the result of the brain trying to fill in the areas around isolated points of light.  If you can stand another analogy, compare a JPEG image encoded at quality=75 with the same image encoded at quality=10.  The JPEG at 10 will take up far less disk space (i.e. less data) at the expense of looking distinctly granular.

      (I'm afraid to ask what "colpotrophia" is, but my little knowledge of Greek suggests that it has to do with something far south of your eyes.)

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This is so interesting! I used to see granulation in total darkness when I was younger. I don't know if I've just stopped noticing it or it has stopped happening, but now I only see little specs of color when I've gotten up too quickly in the dark. I have green/blue eyes, and don't have any vision problems.

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@DarrylB, you had me until the JPG stuff. I don't know much about that so all I heard was the "whoosh" as it went over my head.

Colpotrophia is a slight malformation, or rather underdevelopment, of the rear lobes of the brain, common in premature babies, and as I say it often results in blindness and/or imbecility. I am nearsighted, but imbecility has never been one of my problems. Not that I believe my IQ but it's said to be rather high.
I do know I can't see a black beret lying on the seat of a black chair until I'm practically on top of it.

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Even as I was writing that last message I had the feeling that I was being far too computer-geeky,  Sorry.  Let me try again:

    Remember back when TV sets had tubes?  And they had knobs labeled "brightness" and "contrast"? You could fiddle with those knobs and make the screen almost totally black-- you could just see vague shadows of the figures on tv, unless one of the characters was wearing a white shirt-- you would see just the shirt.  Or if there were a lamp in the scene, you'd see that.  But a lot of the time you'd just see a few dim speckles of light moving around.
  My idea was that, under low light, the brain is trying to make sense of a few dim speckles of light, taking each speck and filling in the space around it with color in the hope that it sort of represents the areas that are too dim to be seen.

Quote:
I am nearsighted, but imbecility has never been one of my problems 

    It's so tempting to make a joke here, but I've learned that humor doesn't always transfer well over the internet.

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G'wan...you know you wanna!!
I promise not to be upset. I'm just surprised FB didn't zing me already.

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