The knowledge that a flickering light can cause mysterious visual hallucinations and alterations in consciousness is something humans have known since the discovery of fire. It must have been knowledge of great value to the ancient shamans and poets, who learned how to use the images in the flames to enhance their magic. Ancient scientists were also intrigued by this phenomenon, and explored its practical applications. In 125 A.D. Apuleius experimented with a flickering light stimulus produced by the rotation of a potter's wheel, and found it could be used to reveal a type of epilepsy. Around 200 A.D. Ptolemy noted that when he placed a spinning spoked wheel between an observer and the sun, the flickering of the sunlight through the spokes of the spinning wheel could cause patterns and colors to appear before the eyes of the observer and could produce a feeling of euphoria.
Plateau, used the flickering of light through a strobe wheel to study the diagnostic significance of the flicker fusion phenomenon. As he caused the light flickers to come faster and faster, he found that at a certain point the flickers seemed to "fuse" into a steady, unflickering light pattern. Plateau discovered that healthy people were able to see separate flashes of light at much higher flicker speeds than were sick people. (In recent years, studies using light sources such as a tachistoscope to provide rapid light flashes have revealed that long-term meditators are able to see discrete flashes of light at much higher flicker rates than non-meditators.)
In the 17th century - French psychologist Pierre Janet used flickering lights to reduce hysteria for hospital patients. 1876 - Seth Pancoast utilized red light to stimulate the nervous system.
Modern scientific research into the effects of rhythmic light began in the mid-1930s when scientists discovered that the electrical rhythms of the brain tended to assume the rhythm of a flashing light stimulus, a process called entrainment. In the 1940's a neuroscientist Gray Walter used a strobe light to create flickering light (visual) stimulation, and noted that the brain wave pattern of the whole cortex was changed.. Since then many devices have been developed to entrain brain waves. Various types of visual stimulation means have been in use both clinically and commercially since the mid-1970s and currently there are a number of different manufacturers who make and sell these means.
Published scientific and clinical studies have reported visual stimulations to be effective in inducing relaxation, reducing stress, reducing blood pressure, relieving tension headache, managing chronic pain, relieving insomnia, and reducing the discomfort of premenstrual syndrome. Visual stimulation means are currently being used by professional psychologists in their practices and by the general public for relaxation, stress management, insomnia, mind expansion, accelerated learning and retention, breaking limiting beliefs, phobias, anxiety, sports training, promoting physical wellness.
A flood of subsequent scientific research in the 1960s and 70s revealed that such flicker effects at certain frequencies seemed to have amazing powers. Various scientists discovered that visual stimulation could have a variety of beneficial effects, such as increasing I.Q. scores, enhancing intellectual functioning and producing greater synchronization between the two hemispheres of the brain. It has been established that flicker effects can rapidly produce states of deep relaxation, and may increase suggestibility, receptivity to new information, and enhance access to subconscious.
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