Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Seeing Things...Migraine, Aura, Hallucinations...

A break from Gilgamesh to talk about migraines, as in I saw something similar to this for half an hour this afternoon. They usually start as little tiny things in the center of my vision and then they grow and grow until they expand beyond the edge of my vision and then they are gone.

The reason I have three tries on here is that what I really need is something that moves and shimmers like a psychedelic special effect and I'm just not that good at creating special effects. If there is a filter that can turn a portion of an image into some kind of optical line effect like the pattern behind the old Green Hornet logo or something off Star Trek then I would probably have the right pattern, because the thing shimmers and shifts and seems to move, sort of like the electric marquee lights on Broadway, but in zig-zags and an arc.

These are known as "fortification auras" and a former Behavioral Science colleague of mine used to seem to delight in telling me that I had hallucinations. I seem to see them more often in the southern U.S. than in the west and they may be triggered by weather and humidity. I have 5 daughters and three of them see some type of aura, but everyone's is different, from a white snow effect to colorful spots to nauseating washes of icky cream and vegetable colors.

Below is a sequence description I made in 2003.


  1. This is really fascinating. I'm getting more and more interested in the way auras differ between migraine sufferers. Neato.

  2. Great pictures - I have tried explaining to people what it is that I see - this will help. Thanks. I see the same thing frequently, especially when over-tired. I have MS and Optic Neuritis (symptom of MS) and these rainbow zig-zags are getting to be a nuisance, no real cure apart from sitting quietly in a darkened room. I admire your fascination but at the moment I'm not that fascinated! I have one now and can hardly see....

  3. Had a migraine very similar to this yesterday, never suffered before. Similar shape, but the colours were iridescent, silver, pinks and green. I didn't know what was happening to me, so reading your experience is comforting.

  4. I just stumbled across your blog by doing a search for "migraine aura." I also get migraines with visual aura. I find it fascinating that you have tried to draw yours. Mine is sometimes like the white snow effect and sometimes colorful spots. Today, I have the colorful spots. I never see zigzags -- although apparently lots of migraineurs do -- but mine can crowd out the edges of my vision in the way you depicted.

    By the way, I'm also a Christian and have lovely friends who have been missionaries to Papua New Guinea for years. And I love art but mostly in the "art appreciation" sort of way. :)

  5. I have scintillating scotoma or migraine vision or migraine aura for 40 years. I used to it. I hate it. When I spot a dot to block my vision then a moment I know it is scintillating scotoma without warning. I cover sleep mask or towel or clothes on my eye to keep dark for 30 minutes. I had good sleep. If I drive, have to stop and park, wait for 30 minutes. If I cook or read the book or watch TV, and I have to stop. I have no pain or no headache, nothing after the symptom. I explained that to my eye doctor and there is nothing he can do.

    Three years ago, I met my friend's husband who is eye doctor and told me that it causes by hormone changes via any meats or any steaks. He suggested me to avoid to eat both meats and steaks. for two years, I don't see scintillating scotoma. Last week, I was hungry and wanted to eat the steak. I ate it. Darn two days later I got scintillating scotoma. I don't know how work meats and steak cause. Now I can't eat any meats or any steaks. I can eat fish, chicken and turkey...no problem.

  6. Thank you for posting this. I have had these auras for almost 40 years. I am male. Most the time a migraine follows. (like right now) Other times, it's just the aura. It's always somewhat interesting to see the aura. If it weren't for the headache (they last 8-72 hours in me), the aura would be a nice distraction. It's difficult to find images that approximate the aura. Your images are the closest to what I see in my auras. thanks.

  7. This is spooky! I've seen this thing almost excactly how you draw them.
    What i also notic i s that the pulsate in severan colours like fractal/plasma- graphics. I'm sure now that what I see is a fortification aura. I've only had them twice and with no headache aftewards which I undersatnd is rare. Thanks for posting this.

  8. Finally! I can describe what I see about 30-40 minutes before my migraine begins to take full effect. I usually explain that I see these electricity lines in the shape of a backwards C that partially blocks my vision. My managers & co-workers never understood why I had a hard time reading, typing or concentrating while this happened. Now I can finally show them. Thank you!