• Stephen Westland

Does colour really affect our mind and body? A professor of colour science explains

Red makes the heart beat faster. You will frequently find this and other claims made for the effects of different colours on the human mind and body. But is there any scientific evidence and data to support such claims? The physiological mechanisms that underpin human colour vision have been understood for the best part of a century, but it is only in the last couple of decades that we have discovered and begun to understand a separate pathway for the non-visual effects of colour.

Like the ear, which also provides us with our sense of balance, we now know that the eye performs two functions. Light sensitive cells known as cones in the retina at the back of the eye send electrochemical signals primarily to an area of the brain known as the visual cortex, where the visual images we see are formed. However, we now know that some retinal ganglion cells respond to light by sending signals mainly to a central brain region called the hypothalamus which plays no part in forming visual images