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Neuroscience/Voluntary Pupil Dialation

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John Watson wrote at 2006-11-27 05:11:25
I too can control pupil dilation. I discovered this 'talent' at about age 12 (am now 70). As an undergrad in psychology, I theorized it to be some manner of control of adrenaline (then termed epinephrine) release. Galvanic skin response is very large and perfectly correlated. Have often wondered how frequent this talent is exposed. My only cognitive ticket to producing the effect is by similarity to the feeling I get when trying to tap fingers beyond rate I am able to do so. Clearly a sense of effort, but nothing to do with orientation of eyes. Tonight's "60 min." show had story on potential cementing effect of adrenaline on memory. If my theory of dilation is correct, perhaps I can support aging memory with use this trick for memorable moments.


james wrote at 2008-06-14 21:30:55
I too can open and close my pupils at will. I am curious what kind of effect, if any this is having, or can have on my vision.


Madison wrote at 2009-01-24 03:09:22
I can do this, too, and there are several youtube videos of other people who have control of pupil dialation.  For me, I know I'm doing it because everything goes fuzzy.  I've been able to do it as long as I can remember, all the way back to childhood.  In my adult life, I also have developed ophthalmic migraines, and I have no idea if the two things are related at all, but they're both weird eye things.


Taylor wrote at 2010-06-26 04:42:45
I too can do as you described. I learned this 'skill' just recently. I'm not sure if I could always do this, but I know I am able to now. I also release some kind of adrenaline in my body and with each intake of breath when I'm realsing it, my pupils become larger and larger. I've read a few things on the interenet about this... 'talent'. So, I'm guessing it's not THAT uncommon. I'm  not sure if it has any effect on the eyes. I've experenced none.  


prakashmalshe wrote at 2011-04-13 17:15:43
The ancient Indian discipline of Yoga advocates daily practice of voluntary contraction of the anal sphincter which is known as 'moolbandha'. While studying the effects of this practice, I have stumbled upon an important finding which is so far unknown to the physiologists at large. Moolbandha produces instant activation of the sympathetic nervous system. The heart rate rises, the blood pressure rises and the pupils are dilated. This dilatation is observed even in face of bright light such as that of a slit lamp. This is the way one can have a voluntary control on the sympathetic nervous system. Just contract your anus, and it dilates your pupil. I tried to send this to some physiology journals but they have refused to publish quoting some reason or the other. Voluntary activation of sympathetic system can be useful in several medical conditions such as nasal congestion and bronchial asthma. Besides, a daily dose of this 'yogic adrenaline' can have profound effect on the mood, sleep, appetite, sexual and immune functions.


Rahul Ganguly wrote at 2012-10-14 18:57:02
I have been able to do this since I was a child. While I'm "activating" the effect, there is a sense of other physiological changes. My heart rate increases, skin feels sensitive and there is a generalised sense of "rush". I suspect the blood pressure shoots up as well. I'm not sure how best to describe it, but I can trigger the pupil dilation effect for no longer than 5-10 seconds without discomfort. I hope more research gets done on folks while they are voluntarily dilating their pupils. I would really want to know which parts of the brain and nervous system are responsible for it, and how this is triggered, and why most people I know cannot seem to replicate this effect.


Catherine wrote at 2012-10-24 14:24:28
I can also "activate" my nervous system. It seems that only a very small part of the population is able to do this, otherwise perhaps there would be more research on it. What I want to know is, has anyone experienced any adverse effects from doing this? For the most part I forget about the fact that I can do it, and sometimes it will happen naturally. I can also only do it for 5-10 seconds, and it drains all of my energy. What is this thing we are doing? I worked in an EEG lab and had someone watch my waves while doing it, and they said it looked like I was jumping around the room, only I was sitting perfectly still. If anyone has any information, post an answer!  


LeeArwen wrote at 2012-11-11 08:09:40
I've also been able to do this since childhood. I've never realized the pupil dilation due to the fact that I have very brown/black iris. However, I know that I can trigger this effect at any time; I don't activate it with my anus so much as with my tailbone. When I consciously do this I will feel an adrenaline rush and it can affect my pulse and blood pressure. When I was younger I was amused by confusing medical health professionals by activating this response during examinations. However, it now takes a much more concerted effort to make my pulse and blood pressure seem "normal" now that I'm an adult.




Tobias wrote at 2013-01-22 21:51:11
Im able to do this as well.. And as all you other mentioned it feels like i get and adrenaline rush or something, i can do this voluntarily at will, how many times and whenever and keep them larger or smaller. The only thing I've noticed is when I've done it a few times and looks in the mirror the pupils are pulsating almost at the same speed as my heartbeat.  


Gordon Scherer wrote at 2013-06-15 23:26:50
My name is Gordon Scherer and I am the first to discover that this is a result of having negative blood. I assume all of you do or are at least half although I have never met anyone that was not rh- that could do this.




ratch wrote at 2013-06-26 19:34:37
I can do this, exactly as described, since childhood. My blood type is A+



It's not a meditative or guided imagery trick at all - it's like directly telling the adrenals to release adrenaline. My pupils dilate quickly, blood pressure goes way up (I also freaked out doctors this way) and pulse gets erratic. I also find it VERY useful for clearing alcohol, if I've had too much to drink! The feeling is like fear - like someone goes "boo!" and you jump into the air - except it's entirely devoid of emotional content - not the least frightening.


Gordon Scherer wrote at 2013-07-02 02:10:33
WOw. You are the first rh+ I have met that can do that. Do you know your parents?


Red20s wrote at 2013-10-15 19:56:35
I've been astonished by this ability it feels so good like a high, it makes everything go faster and gives me a rush of chemicals which I can strongly feel during the course of the dilation. It's more of an ability to release chemicals which in response dilate the pupils. This is definitely scientific worthy research.


Matthew Havard wrote at 2013-10-26 08:00:58
Sweet.  Good to know I'm not the only one out there that can do this.  I figured out I could do this..., gosh, prolly when I was still in elementary school.  I'm thirty now.  The sensation seems to resonate from my whole body.  I've noticed when I do this my pulse increases dramatically and my blood pressure sky rockets.  I'm a pretty mellow guy.



I also suffer from Ocular Migraines.  Is this a side effect?



I can also give myself chills, where I get goosebumps and my hair stands on end.  Though this 'ability' diminishes as I do it.  And I have to do it a few times before I get a good one.



Not sure on my blood type.  I'll find out what type I have and put it up here.


ponderingthestrange wrote at 2013-10-31 04:32:37
I also have been able to do this since I was a child. My mother is rh- and I don't know about my father but, i am A+.


Larry wrote at 2014-01-23 09:26:32
I can dilate (focus or unfocus vision) at will since i can remember. Blood type 0 rh-. Plus, like Catherine, i can somehow "activate" a rush in my nervous system. Something like a big charge and discharge starting from a point behind the belly. Sometimes it helps me regaining focus but it leaves me a bit more tired. I thought it was a normal function but yesterday after a silly research i discovered it to be pretty rare.  


cassie wrote at 2014-02-07 19:08:37
I as well have voluntary control of my pupils. In no way does it effect my pulse, breathing, or change the way I feel.  My blood type is o positive I am sure about this.  My father can also do this and he is o positive as well.  I can do this for an unlimited amount of time I have never felt tired after doing this.  I am trying to find our why this happens as well but cant seem to find a consistent answer.  


Eli wrote at 2014-02-19 09:44:24
I knew i could dialate my eyes but i did'nt know my heart rate was jumping until i got my wisdom teeth removed. I was being put to sleep so i was hooked up to a heart rate monitor. I check my heart rate  and it went from 75 to 90. Nice to know im not the only weirdo


Kat wrote at 2014-06-11 05:49:16
I'm 15 and I can do this too. I've been able to do this for what seems like forever. When I do it I find if easier to look into someone else's pupil (or at something black), but mainly pupils. I get adrenaline rushes and when I do it for a long amount of time things will start to change colors (mostly blue and purple) and if I'm staring into one eye, the other eye will start to look different. Sometimes turn completely black. I also feel that I take in energy when I do this. A teacher told me that I may have a larger amount of rods and cones in my eyes than the average person. I have very light and bold blue eyes, idk if that would be a factor in this.


Karen Knoxville wrote at 2015-01-31 06:05:11
Until yesterday, and I'm 46, I assumed everyone could "blur" their vision.  Since childhood,  I've been able to do this. Not sure how I knew that it was dilating my pupils, but have never felt any other physical effect associated with this. Does make my eyes feel a little weird after. Somewhat early need for the stinking reading glasses, maybe?  


Anonymous wrote at 2015-11-19 00:10:55
Omg I'm 13 and I found out I could also do this today. I've been doing it for the past month but I just noticed it today in the mirror where I could change my pupils. Like when I do it it's like I focus on the stuff around me I can hold it for a long time sometimes I love to do it while looking around but I only do it alone of course. A lot of times when I'm on my phone I just do it and I can't control it but I don't mind it if I try to stop doing it my pupils get smaller. When I do it I feel like I can focus on darks and lights like shadows very well. Do u guys ever I this? Don't do it cause I can't stop its kinda addicting so I look at any object focus on it for a second then quickly move my eyes somewhere else and the object stays in my eye sight less than a secound. It's kinda hard to control like my pupils stay small for a long time and I sort of can't control it :/  it feels like when u wake up in a dark room then u turn on a light but without ur eyes hurting  


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Kai Schreiber

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Mostly questions specific to vision science and eye movements, with some expertise in general neuroscience and cognitive science. Strongest background in mathematical theory, modelling and the theory of perception, but I will try to answer anything that comes my way.

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Postdoc in Vision/Oculomotor research.

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UC Berkeley

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Journal of Vision, Nature, IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Enginerring

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Dipl Phys (Universtität Tübingen), PhD (Physiology, Univeristy of Toronto), Graduate Program in Neuroscience (University of Toronto)

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