Vision researchers at Barrow Neurological Institute have made a groundbreaking discovery into the optimization of light sources to human vision. By tuning lighting devices to work more efficiently with the human brain the researchers believe billions of dollars in energy costs could be saved.
The research was conducted by Stephen Macknik, PhD, of Barrow's Laboratory of Behavioral Neurophysiology, and Susana Martinez-Conde, PhD, of Barrow's Laboratory of Visual Neuroscience. The study is published Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The paper, titled "Optimizing the temporal dynamics of light to human perception," is believed to be the first attempt to tune light-emitting devices to the optimal temporal dynamics of the human visual system.
The discovery concerns the way humans perceive temporal modulations of light. For example, most light-emitting devices, such as light bulbs, video monitors and televisions, flicker. Faster flicker rates result in reduced perception of flicker, which is more comfortable to viewers. In studying this phenomenon in the brain, the researchers discovered that there is a range of flicker dynamics of light that optimizes the perceived brightness of the light without increasing power.
"We found a temporal sweet spot in visual perception that can be exploited to obtain significant savings by redesigning light emitting devices to flicker with optimal dynamics to activate visual system neurons in the human brain," says Dr. Macknik.
The researchers estimate that if every light-emitting device in the U.S. - from light bulbs to cell phones - operated at optimal efficiency for the human visual system, it could result in billions of dollars of savings in electricity and power.