Oliver Sacks has an article in the NYT that talks about the patterns that are associated with migraines. Here’s a little excerpt:
“In my own migraine auras, I would sometimes see — vividly with closed eyes, more faintly and transparently if I kept my eyes open — tiny branching lines, like twigs, or geometrical structures covering the entire visual field: lattices, checkerboards, cobwebs, and honeycombs. Sometimes there were more elaborate patterns, like Turkish carpets or complex mosaics; sometimes I saw scrolls and spirals, swirls and eddies; sometimes three-dimensional shapes like tiny pine cones or sea urchins.
Such patterns, I found, were not peculiar to me, and years later, when I worked in a migraine clinic, I discovered that many of my patients habitually saw such patterns.” — from Patterns, by Oliver Sacks
Sacks discusses how many other physical conditions can produce geometric hallucinations: sensory deprivation, low blood sugar, fever, delirium, or the hypnopompic and hypnagogic states that come immediately before and after sleep.
I’ve experienced some of these patterns, particularly when I’m drifting off to sleep. I’ve seen some beautiful patterns, interesting enough that they almost pushed me to full awakening. I’ve thought, “What a great combination of colors. I’ll have to remember that tomorrow.” And of course, I can never remember.
Sacks then ties the migraine patterns to patterns that have been represented in art across cultures, times and disciplines–painting, weaving, tile work, basketry, architecture–and wonders whether these similar geometric patterns could have all been inspired by internal brain organization.
It’s a fascinating article. I’ve always been drawn to organized forms, repetitive images, patterns of shape and color. Perhaps I’ve been tapping into a larger historical or biological system of organization, made tangible by artists throughout time.
[Note: I copied this entry over from my Vox blog, which unfortunately is unable to export comments. So I also copied the comments because they were particularly interesting and I hated to leave them behind.]