Thermal Illusion - 03.10

In this exhibit visitors experience the different reaction of the brain if the sense of cold is combined with the sense of warmth.

Visitors experience a burning sensation while putting their hand on the grill where both coils are entwined. While the cool coil isn’t colder than 10ºC and the warm coil not warmer than 40ºC. Generally, cold doesn’t feel painful. If it does, it feels like burning. The skin sends two components of cold to the brain: the temperature and the quantity of pain. However, the nerves that transmit the cold temperature information suppress the nerves that transmit the pain. That’s why cold normally feels cold, but not painful. But, when cold is mixed with warmth, the average temperature the skin measures, is warmer, and the nerves which forward cold, pass on less cold information. Because of this these nerves no longer inhibit the pain signals and therefore you experience pain.

  1. Hold the left cold coil.
  2. Hold the right warm coil.
  3. Hold the coil in the middle.
  4. What do you feel?

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