I have been unable to do much work this week owing to a recurrent virus but when I have been well enough I have been researching the amazing ways our body is affected by various different sensory materials.  I’ve done this as I want to show how we can all be affected by the things we perceive, for better or worse we are all at the mercy of our sensory experience.

This includes colour, sound and deep touch pressure.  I have summarised these below:


  • Dyslexic children have been helped in their reading by placing a coloured transparent sheet over the stark black and white page.

  • Phototherapy for SAD

  • Colours may evoke associations with odour and taste, appear heavy or light, appear near or distant, be associated with sound, volume and temperatures c.f Manke (1996)

Much work has been done on the effect of colour on our senses and psychological response. Below we expand on the work of Mahnke (1996):

Colour has a profound effect on many areas:

Perception of Volume:
Lightness or darkness of colour in interior spaces plays a very important role in the perception its overall volume. Light or pale colours recede or increase room size while dark or saturated hues seem to decrease the apparent size of the same room. Similarly, a highly illuminated room will have an enlarged appearance of volume while a dim or low illumination seems to diminish it.

Perception of Weight and Size:
Darker colour appears heavier while paler colours seem lighter. 

Cool colours make objects appear shorter and smaller while warm colours make them longer and larger.
Eg.  A low ceiling may be painted lighter to make them appear higher.

Perception of Temperature:
Colours that are considered warm are red, orange, and yellow while cool colours are shades of blue and green. There are a number of accepted medical theories proving the perception of temperature with respect to colours.
Eg. Because red is the nearest hue to infrared heat (it is the longest wavelength) it imparts a physical sensation of warmth. 

Colours absorb and retain heat to various levels. In hot climates floors are whitewashed or white china mosaic flooring is used to reflect heat and keep temperatures inside the room lower.

Perception of Noise and Sound:
Brightness and loudness are associated with the effects of warm colours and vice versa.
Eg. Loud red / soothing blue.

Heinrich Frieling, director of the Institute of colour Psychology, assigned the following sound associations to various colours based on his research. A few examples are as follows:
• Red: Loud, trumpet
• Pink: Soft, delicate
• Yellow: Shrill, major key
• Green: Muffled (when dull), shrill (when saturated)
• Blue: Distant, flute to violin.

Associations of Odour and Taste:
Colours that hold pleasant associations with smell are pink, lavender, pale yellow and green. Tints of coral, peach, soft yellow, light green have pleasant associations with taste.

Colour and the appeal of various foods is also closely related. Just the sight of food fires neurons in the hypothalamus. Subjects presented food to eat in the dark reported a critically missing element for enjoying any cuisine: the appearance of food. For the sighted, the eyes are the first place that must be convinced before a food is even tried. This means that some food products fail in the marketplace not because of bad taste, texture, or smell but because the consumer never got that far”. (Gary Blumenthal International Food Strategies)

Tactile Associations:
Colour can give an impression of texture or sense of touch.
E.g.  Red appears firm and solid, yellow appears smooth and light while violet has a velvety appearance.

Colour has a very strong effect on our psychology and is deeply ingrained in our cultural psyche (e.g in the Western world white is seen as pure and Virginal, why brides where white). Further reading on the psychology of colour can be found at


This is any applied pressure to the body and it has found to be very useful in combating various illnesses and disorders.

Several devices to apply continuous pressure to parts of the body have been utilised in research settings (e.g. use of weighted blankets in crisis settings)

How Does it Work?

Increases activity in parasympathetic nervous system & suggestion it activates the sympathetic nervous system (based on weighted blanket therapy) (Chen et al 2011).

  • Reduces blood pressure and heart rate (

  • Cortisol levels drop (ibid)

  • “Anything that increases the relaxation response triggers the restoration of your immune response.” (Dr R. Lee)

  • Increases oxytocin (hugging, enjoyable touch) (ibid)


  • Levitin & Chanda (2013) music improves the body’s immune system function and reduces stress.

“listening to and playing music increase the body’s production of the antibody immunoglobulin A and natural killer cells — the cells that attack invading viruses and boost the immune system’s effectiveness. Music also reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol.”

Researchers at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Singapore:

“Active music engagement allowed the patients to reconnect with the healthy parts of themselves, even in the face of a debilitating condition or disease-related suffering,” (Kwan 2013)

Vibration is Healing

“vibroacoustic therapy”  Bartel et al : using low frequency sound — similar to a low rumble — to produce vibrations that are applied directly to the body (similar to sitting on a subwoofer).

King et al 2009 found vibroacoustic therapy led to improvements in patients with Parkinsons

Healing Sound

University of Toronto’s Music and Health Research Collaboratory

Currently researching sound and its positive effects on fibromyalgia, Alzheimers, Parkinsons:

“thalmocortical dysrhythmia”

disruption in regular brain rhythm of thalmus and outer cortex low frequency sounds somewhat restore these rhythms, correcting sensation.

I find this an extremely interesting area of study.  Colours are of particular interest as they can impact on us in so many ways and sound therapy has been shown to work with people who have long term illnesses such as Alzheimers, Fibromyalgia and even Parkinsons.  I believe if we can harness the science that is coming through in this area of research within an art context experiences and even life could be improved for a great many people.