Light and paranormal investigation

15th July 2022. Reading Time: 5 minutes General, Paranormal Investigation, Stuff paranormal investigators need to know. 230 page views. 0 comments.

Humans can see in both light and dark conditions. While there is an adaption process that our eyes go through, studies have found that light also affects our cognition and how we remember things. So what does this mean for investigating in the dark?

Light is a lot more than just visual.  While it makes up the very basis of how we see things, it also has both biological and physical effects.  Think about it.  Sometimes if we are feeling depressed, we are encouraged to let light into our room.  When we are sleeping, we close the blinds or wear a sleep mask to block out light.  Our bodies are programmed to match that of the light.  It is called the circadian rhythm.  The light itself plays an integral part in our own well-being.  When we are exposed to light outside of our normal pattern, our physiological processes become out of whack and it starts to have a physical effect on our bodies.  It may surprise you to know that light also affects our cognition. 

Light affects memory

During the day, we are busy little bees and our brains are soaking it all in.  We are learning throughout the day and then storing it in our memories at night.  It also happens that it is during the day we are creating these memories and then storing them at night when it is dark.  Studies have also indicated that we remember things better when we are exposed to light, meaning our memory is a lot better during the day rather than at night.

Light is recently recognized as a modulator able to activate the hippocampus and modulate memory processing, but little is known about the molecular mechanisms. Here, we report that in mice, a short pulse of white light before learning dramatically improves consolidation of contextual fear memory during the night. The light exposure increases hippocampal active p21-activated kinase 1 (PAK1) and CA1 long-term potentiation (LTP). These light effects are abolished in PAK1 knockout and dominant-negative transgenic mice, but preserved by expression of constitutively active PAK1 in the hippocampus. Our results indicate that light can act as a switch of PAK1 activity that modulate CA1 LTP and thereby memory consolidation without affecting learning and short-term memory.

Shan, LL., Guo, H., Song, NN. et al. Light exposure before learning improves memory consolidation at night. Sci Rep 5, 15578 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/srep15578lex Escolà-Gascón, James Houran,

It may also interest you to know that at night, our brain likes to put things into an order that we understand.  It means we tend to remember events as a story.  If you want to learn more about this, check out my article The Narrative Fallacy - Turning investigations into ghost stories

Not only is light an important factor for our memory, but it also affects our reaction time and how we function.  Studies in productivity show that light plays a significant role in how we complete cognitive tasks.  Our reaction time for example is better, we have increased attention and higher consciousness.   

Based on the results, the light with shorter wavelengths, higher intensity, and higher color temperature led to suppressed melatonin, higher consciousness, less somnolence, increased attention, and faster reaction time. Simultaneous exposure to harmful levels of environmental factors affects cognitive and physiological parameters, acting independently with a separate mechanism or synergistically with a similar mechanism. The best light in the regulation of psychological, biological, and cognitive processes is bright daylight in the morning with a short wavelength, high intensity, and more lasting effects.

As evidenced by the obtained results, light is a powerful modulator of non-visual performance in cognitive tasks. The wavelength, color temperature, and light intensity modulate brain responses to cognitive tasks, including attention and reaction time. Therefore, these parameters, along with personal and environmental factors, should be considered in designing and using light.

Golmohammadi R, Yousefi H, Safarpour Khotbesara N, Nasrolahi A, Kurd N. Effects of Light on Attention and Reaction Time: A Systematic Review. J Res Health Sci. 2021 Oct 31;21(4):e00529. doi: 10.34172/jrhs.2021.66. PMCID: PMC8957666.

As mentioned above bright daylight in the morning is said to be the most effective.  

So what does this all this mean for paranormal investigations that take place at night?

First of all, there is no hard and fast rule that you have to investigate at night time.  There are some really good arguments as to why this may not be the best course of action - especially if you are looking to validate experiences or sightings that occurred during the day.  Unfortunately, for a lot of people, they may not have access or it just may not be practical to investigate a location during the day, and have to do so at night time.  It doesn't mean however that you have to switch the lights off.  Some will argue that by having the lights off you are more aware and opening up your senses.  I suppose we can also argue now that we could be better investigators by keeping the lights on.  We will be more alert, and more aware and our cognitive function as a whole will work a lot better.  At night, we are already a bit tired and weary, so by turning the lights off, we are potentially slowing down our response time and even the way we recall the events of the evening.  

We also need to remember that lighting affects the way our eyes perceive the environment around us.  Changes can cause us to see things that are not really there.  See my article Palinopsia, afterimages, and sightings of apparitions?  For example, is the simple act of staring at the light on a video camera and then looking up causing us to see something that isn't really there?  

There are both pros and cons when it comes to turning the lights on or off but don't feel you have to have the lights off because that is what you see on TV or because that is how you think it should be done.  Check out my article Lights on VS Lights off.  From pareidolia through to memory recall, there are so many things that can work against us when it comes to our brains.  We can take back a little bit of control here and increase our cognitive reactions with the simple act of leaving a light switched on.  I think it is something that investigators should at least consider!


References

https://www.theguardian.com/science/neurophilosophy/2012/apr/06/1

Liu, X., Ramirez, S., Pang, P. et al. Optogenetic stimulation of a hippocampal engram activates fear memory recall. Nature 484, 381–385 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature11028

https://www.alzdiscovery.org/cognitive-vitality/blog/how-does-light-exposure-affect-memory

Shan, LL., Guo, H., Song, NN. et al. Light exposure before learning improves memory consolidation at night. Sci Rep 5, 15578 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/srep15578lex Escolà-Gascón, James Houran,

https://www.aarp.org/health/brain-health/info-2018/light-memory-learning-fd.html

Golmohammadi R, Yousefi H, Safarpour Khotbesara N, Nasrolahi A, Kurd N. Effects of Light on Attention and Reaction Time: A Systematic Review. J Res Health Sci. 2021 Oct 31;21(4):e00529. doi: 10.34172/jrhs.2021.66. PMCID: PMC8957666.

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