Blue for the mind, purple for the soul

Blanka Jędra, Marek Kucharski

The Colour you are facing

The Klüver-Barrera method involves staining of neural tissue (myelin and other glial cells) in neuroanatomical and neurological studies. To stain these tissues methyl blue and cresyl violet are used as a dye. Does the ease of combining methyl blue with neural tissue has something to do with its great potential in treating neurological diseases? In clinical trials conducted in 2008, this dye was a candidate as a remedy for Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases. After the administration of methyl blue to patients with Alzheimer’s disease a decrease in tau proteins, responsible for the formation of pathological lesions was observed. Significant antioxidant properties of the dye have also been noticed. The effects of this substance also highly reduced the symptoms of dementia in patients.

Is there a relationship between neurons, the dye and the fact that for centuries violet was considered as a colour that is particularly related to spirituality? Does this mean that the soul is located in the brain? For many centuries the tyrian purple was the most expensive pigment – up to three times more expensive than gold. The limited availability and a high price meant only a few could enjoy it. In antiquity and in the Middle Ages it was produced from sea snails’ yellowish secretions which, after the interaction with sunlight and salt, darkened and changed colour, first to lavender, and then to purple.