Haidinger's brush

Haidinger's brush

Haidinger's brush is an entoptic phenomenon first described by Austrianphysicist Wilhelm Karl von Haidinger in 1844.

Many people are able to perceive polarization of light.It may be seen as a yellowish horizontal bar or bow-tie shape (with "fuzzy" ends, hence the name "brush") visible in the center of the visual field against the blue sky viewed while facing away from the sun, or on any bright background when looking through "polarized" sunglasses. It typically occupies roughly 3-5 degrees of vision, about the same size as the tip of one's thumb held at arm's length. The direction of light polarization is perpendicular to the yellow bar (i.e. vertical if the bar is horizontal). Fainter bluish or purplish areas may be visible between the yellow brushes (see illustration). Haidinger's brush may also be seen by looking at a white area on many LCD flat panel computer screens (due to the polarization effect of the display), in which case it is often diagonal.

Some arthropods (insects, mantis shrimp), mollusks (cuttlefish, squid, octopuses) and fish are sensitive to polarized light.

Physiological causes of Haidinger's brush

Haidinger's brush is entirely due to peculiar features of one of the four visual pigments human vision is based on, that is xanthophylls (also known as lutein, the others being hemoglobine, ferrohemoglobine and ferrihemoglobine).Xanthophyll is very anisotropical, (rod shaped) ; radiation stimulates both electronic states and molecular vibrational states, which are mainly disposed along with the molecule direction. That means that xanthophyll is sensitive to the polarization of the light.

Xanthophyll pigments tend to be parallel to visive nerves; these, because of the fact that foveais not flat, are almost orthogonal to the fovea in its central part, and nearly parallel in itsoutern region. This means that two different areas of the fovea are mainly sensible to two different degrees of polarization.

As xanthophyll is responsible of the absorption in the blue range of the light spectrum, this justifies the wavelengths where human eye is sensible to polarization of light.

Haidinger's brush is usually attributed to the dichroism of the pigment of the macula. The brush's size is consistent with the size of the macula. The macula's dichroism is thought to arise from some of its pigment molecules being arranged circularly. The small proportion of circularly arranged molecules accounts for the faintness of the phenomenon. Another contributor to the phenomenon may be that the cone's outer layer is birefringent. The cornea has also a slight birefringence but more research must be done to determine its role in this phenomenon.

eeing Haidinger's brush

Many people find it hard to see Haidinger's brush initially. It is "very" faint, much more so than generally indicated in illustrations, and, like other stabilized images, tends to appear and disappear.

It is most easily seen when it can be made to move. Since it is always positioned on the macula, there is no way to make it move laterally, but it can be made to rotate, by viewing a white surface through a rotating polarizer, or by slowly tilting your head to one side.

To see Haidinger's brush, start by using a polarizer, such as a lens from a pair of polarizing sunglasses. Gaze at an evenly lit, textureless surface through the lens and rotate the polarizer.

You can instead use the polarizer that is built into a computer's LCD screen: simply look at a white area on the screen, and slowly tilt your head (a CRT monitor does not involve a polarizer, so it will not work for this purpose unless you look through a separate polarizer).

The accompanying image shows the approximate size of the brush as it appears on a nominal-15" (38 cm) computer monitor located about 18" (46 cm) from the eye. In this example, the polarization is horizontal; the polarizers built into LCD screens are more often diagonally oriented, so the brush would be rotated by 45 degrees with respect to this image. The picture shows the actual intensity of the brush as seen by one observer. Different individuals see it with different degrees of intensity and distinctness, but it is usually "very" pale.

It appears with more distinctness against a blue background. With practice, it is possible to see it in the naturally polarized light of a blue sky. Minnaert recommends practicing first with a polarizer, then trying it without. The areas of the sky with the strongest polarization are those 90 degrees away from the sun. Minnaert says that after a minute of gazing at the sky, "a kind of marble effect will appear. This is followed shortly by Haidinger's brush." He comments that not all observers see it in the same way. Some see the yellow pattern as solid and the blue pattern as interrupted, as in the illustrations on this page; some see the blue as solid and the yellow as interrupted; and some see it alternating between the two states.

Use of Haidinger's brush

The fact that the sensation of Haidinger's brush corresponds with the visual field correlate of the macula means that it can be utilised in training people to look at objects with their macula. People with certain types of strabismus may undergo an adaptation whereupon they look at the object of attention not with their fovea (at the centre of the macula) but with an eccentric region of the retina. This adaptation is known as eccentric fixation. To aid in training a person to look at an object with their fovea rather than their eccentric retinal zone, the Macular Integrity Tester-Trainer may be used. This apparatus utilises a rotating polarised plate backlit with a bright white light. Wearing blue spectacles (to enhance the Haidinger's brush image) and an over the other eye, the user will hopefully notice the Haidinger's brush where their macula correlates to in their visual field. The goal of the training is for the user to learn to look at the test object in such a way that the Haidinger's brush overlaps the test object (and thus now looking at it with their fovea). The reason for such training is that the healthy fovea is far greater in its resolving power than any other part of the retina.

ee also

*Haidinger fringe

Further reading

*W.Haidinger, "Ueber das directe Erkennen des polarisirten Lichts und der Lage der Polarisationsebene", Annalen der Physik, vol. 139, Issue 9, pp.29-39, 1844.
*cite web | author=Alcoz, J.| title=Haidinger's Brush | work=Polarization.com | url=http://www.polarization.com/haidinger/haidinger.html | accessdate=2006-03-14
*Minnaert, M. G. J, 1993, "Light and Color in the Outdoors." (translated by Len Seymour from the 1974 Dutch edition). ISBN 0-387-97935-2, Springer-Verlag, New York.
*Fairbairn, Maxwell B. (2001). Physical Models of Haidingers Brush. "Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada". 95, 248 - 251.

External links

* [http://www.polarization.com/haidinger/haidinger.html How to see polarization with the naked eye]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Haidinger's brush —    Also known as Haidinger brushes, Haidinger s brushes, and Haidinger s polarization brushes. All four eponyms refer to the Austrian physicist, geologist, and mineralogist Wilhelm Karl Ritter von Haidinger (1795 1871), who has been credited with …   Dictionary of Hallucinations

  • Haidinger's brush — /ˌhaɪdɪŋəz ˈbrʌʃ/ (say .huydinguhz brush) noun an elongated faintly yellowish region seen in the blue sky due to the polarisation of light from the sky. {named after WK Haidinger, 1795–1871, Austrian mineralogist and physicist} …   Australian English dictionary

  • Haidinger fringe — Haidinger fringes are interference fringes formed by the interference of monochromatic and coherent light to form visible dark and bright fringes. Fringe localization is the region of space where fringes with reasonably good contrast are observed …   Wikipedia

  • Haidinger-Büschel — Darstellung des Haidinger Büschels (Skizze nach Marcel Minnaert) Im Jahre 1844 hat Wilhelm Ritter von Haidinger in den Annalen der Physik[1] auf eine bis dahin unbeachtete Fähigkeit des menschlichen Auges hingewiesen: mit Hilfe der Wahrnehmung… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Haidinger brushes —    see Haidinger s brush …   Dictionary of Hallucinations

  • Haidinger's brushes —    see Haidinger s brush …   Dictionary of Hallucinations

  • Haidinger's polarization brushes —    see Haidinger s brush …   Dictionary of Hallucinations

  • Haidinger's brushes — Hai·ding·er s brush·es hī diŋ ərz brəsh əz n pl a faint blue and yellow dumbbell shaped image that is produced in the human eye by the selective absorption of polarized light by the yellow macular pigment of the fovea and can be used to detect… …   Medical dictionary

  • Haidinger brushes — Hai·ding·er brushes (hiґding ər) [Wilhelm von Haidinger, Austrian mineralogist, 1795–1871] see under brush …   Medical dictionary

  • brush — An instrument made of some flexible material, such as bristles, attached to a handle or to the tip of a catheter. [A.S. byrst, bristle] Ayre b. a device, consisting of a long flexible tube with a b. at the distal end, for collecting gastric… …   Medical dictionary

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