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The DXM Stop Motion Effect ('Strobing' or 'Flanging')
Terminology for Interference with the Visual Perception of Motion
by Earth Erowid
v1.0 - May 28, 2009
Citation:   Erowid E. "The DXM Stop Motion Effect ('Strobing' or 'Flanging'): Terminology for Interference with the Visual Perception of Motion". Erowid.org. May 28, 2009.
Introduction
Many users of dextromethorphan (DXM) report an effect on their visual perception of motion that is compared to everything being illuminated by a strong strobe light, with perceived gaps or pauses between each visual frame. A variety of terms are used to describe this effect, including "strobing", "flanging", "chopping", "lag", "clipping", "freeze-framing", "stop motion", "disturbances in motion", and "filmstripping". Unfortunately, most of those terms are also used to describe other effects like strong nystagmus, afterimages, trails, and memory gaps, and do not appear to have clearly unique meanings in DXM experience reports. Because of similarities in descriptions, the medical term "akinetopsia" (inability to visually perceive motion or "motion blindness") was recently proposed to refer to this effect, but the effect described by DXM users do not seem to qualify as an actual inability to perceive motion. We will use the phrase "stop motion effect" to refer to the effect that hundreds of DXM users describe: having movements in the visual field lag slightly behind normal perception in a staccato series of static images, some of which may persist and interfere with current vision.

The DXM FAQ Describes "Flanging"
William White's influential DXM FAQ primarily uses the term "flanging" to describe this effect:
The most general sensory effect of the second plateau is "flanging". Flanging, also called phlanging, phasing, stop-action, framing, strobing, etc., is the sensation that continuous sensory input has been chopped up into frames (as if you were watching a badly animated cartoon), often with some echo effect of each frame. There does not seem to be any loss of sensory content; instead, it is as if the ability to keep sensory input time-continuous were disturbed. The best analogy from other drugs may be the effects of nitrous oxide upon sound. The best analogy from non-drug experiences is listening to a voice through an echo/delay effects box (which is where the term "flanging" comes from).

[...] Vision suffers a curious change, seeming to consist of well-processed but highly strobed images; so strong is the effect that it seems as if one is looking at the world under a fast strobe light. The eyes don't seem to track in synch with the inner 3D model of the world, so that when one looks to one side or another, the world lurches back and forth for a moment. [ DXM FAQ ]

Term Confusion
Unfortunately, the terms that are used to describe stop motion effects in DXM reports are also used to describe other related and unrelated effects. Because of this overlap, not every use of "strobing", "flanging", "chopping", etc. can be assumed to refer to this visual phenomenon. Each use of the term has to be parsed for context and it is often not clear exactly what the author is describing.

The DXM FAQ's use of the audio term "flanging" may create some confusion, as it could be understood to refer to visual noise around objects, blurring, halos, or possibly trail-like after images and may not distinctly denote stop motion effects. "Flanging" is also used to describe audio, visual, and time perception.

The terms "trails" and "tracers", frequently used to describe visual effects experienced under the influence of higher doses of DXM, share similar visual impressions with the stop motion effect, but can and do occur without the characteristic primary visual impression of seeing in a series of static frames. Trails/tracers do not always co-occur with the stop motion effect.

Effects on memory may also result in similar experiential effects and descriptions. At higher doses, DXM, Cannabis, MDMA, and other strong psychoactives can result in disruptions of short term memory. Some DXM users describe a rapid, repetitive forgetting of the immediate past ("How did I get here?", "Did I just pick that up?", "Where did that come from?") that may result in perceived gaps in motion. A clear example of the use of "flanging" to refer to memory effects: "I was experiencing heavy flanging, to the extent that I could go downstairs, eat something, and then come back upstairs to find that it felt as if I had never went downstairs in the first place." (Rivethea, exp69103)

Simple time dilation, where the passage of time appears to be slowed or accelerated, is sometimes also described as "strobing" which provides another confound when using that term to describe the stop motion effect.

Also, at high doses of DXM, physical movements of the body become less fluid ("robowalk") and some descriptions of the experience of attempts to walk or move limbs are described using visual terms.

Nystagmus (involuntary eye jumping) caused by DXM can result in a variety of visual effects, some of which are described similarly to the stop motion effect. Visual stuttering, choppiness, and blurring are common with strong nystagmus, but in combination with other visual effects can cause complex patterns and after images.

Is the Medical Term "Akinetopsia" Appropriate?
Because most of the simple terms for the stop motion effect are not precise, some have suggested using the medical term "akinetopsia".(Anonymous 2009) Zeki (1991) defines akinetopsia as: "[...] a syndrome in which a patient loses specifically the ability to perceive visual motion following cortical lesions outside the striate cortex." (Zeki 1991). A short video about the first woman diagnosed with akinetopsia by Lola Kalman provides some examples of the types of effects that are defined to be part of the condition. In a 1999 paper, Horton and Trobe repurpose the term akinetopsia to refer to transient visual effects suffered by two patients receiving nefazodone, but do not perform tests on the case studies and simply collect experiential descriptions. (Horton 1999)

The primary problem with using "akinetopsia" to refer to the stop motion effect is that what most people describe is not unambiguously the inability to perceive and process objects in motion in the visual field. Most often, the effect is described in terms that suggest that there is the visual impression of stopped frames without descriptions of dysfunctions that would define an actual inability to perceive motion visually.

A secondary problem is that people may misunderstand the use of "akinetopsia" to suggest the effect is the result of brain damage, since the medical term is primarily used to describe an effect that is the result of damage to certain areas of the brain. There is no evidence that the DXM stop motion effect has anything to do with damage to the brain.

While the evidence is not yet clear that high doses of DXM result in verifiable motion blindness, there is substantial evidence of a distinct visual phenomenon with effects similar to akinetopsia. Research is necessary to evaluate the stop motion effect and determine whether it causes an actual inability to perceive motion. For now, it seems inappropriate to refer to the stop motion effect as akinetopsia, despite its allure.

Terms Used in Experience Reports
The following are a set of quotes from first-hand experience reports that use a variety of terms to describe the stop motion effect. While not exhaustive, these are representative of the current frequency with which the terms have been used in reports submitted to Erowid as of May 2009. The Experience Vaults contain a total of 79,000 submitted reports, with 6700 reports including the strings "DXM" or "Dextrometho" in the submitted substance field.

Only descriptions of visual effects are included in the following examples. A few examples that were identified as clearly not referring to the stop motion effect are included under separate headings. Not all reports included here have yet been reviewed and published (perhaps you'd like to volunteer to help triage these reports?)

Related Terms

  • Tracers : Over 120 reports submitted to the Experience Vaults (reviewed and unreviewed) included the term "tracer", but the term is rarely used to unambiguosly refer to the stop motion effect. We consider it to be a separate visual effect.
  • Trails : A number of reports use the term "trails" to describe visual effects, but none use it to unambiguously refer to the stop motion effect without resorting to other descriptive terms.

Strobing #

  1. "I remembered the familiar strobing of vision as I walked to shop-rite itself." exp76224
  2. "Me and CC started dancing. Our movements weren't very smooth looking, but they were fun. My depth perception was gone, and everything was strobing, kind of like blinking very fast. So my hands and feet were fun to watch move. CC was hilarious to watch, and I viewed him as a magic shaman the whole time." --exp73972
  3. "When I turned on the kitchen lights, I became even more aware of my mindset. I was swiftly becoming convinced that I was having visual hallucinations, but I couldn't be sure. It was sort of a mix between strobing/framing and seeing tracers. I was only able to process a percentage of my visual world and what I did process became so mangled that I could not be certain of its authenticity." --exp70233
  4. "My vision started to strobe, which has never happened to me before, and the shower curtain looked like it was stretching around me. I was in for a long day. I went downstairs, vision still strobing... " --exp65990
  5. "I was seeing in a strobing vision." --exp60938
  6. "Flanging (or phlanging) is the effect where time begins to be stop-action, framing, strobing, etc. The sensation that continuous sensory input has been chopped up into frames. For me, time seemed to stand still whenever I stayed put in either my bedroom or the living room. Time no longer felt continuous." --exp60308
  7. "I usualy do higher doses of dxm which I enjoy the strobing effect [...]" --exp53372
  8. "Strobing (if that is what it's called) was definitely there. Every couple of steps I took at full speed I would get a new flash of the world." --exp53067
  9. "Everything trails and my vision 'strobes', I see bright light everywhere and my vision skips over everything so it seems as though it is strobing." --exp51459
  10. "Also, everything looked wierd. Not necessarily different (except for some color intensity and minor strobing.)" --exp49556
  11. "There was so much delay between the strobing visual effects that it felt like I was in complete blurry darkness for seconds at a time." --exp839
  12. "Finally I got back to my bed, when my vision went. Your vision isn't great on DXM as it is, and I got this weird very heavy strobing effect to it. When I looked at my clock, it appeared there were mini-blinds in front of my eyes opening and closing really fast." --exp4610
  13. "My friends call the experience strobing because of second plateau's shimmering light qualities." --exp9046
  14. "the lights just start strobing like CRAZY! I have never to this day with MUCH higher doses had the lights strobe like they were." --exp12900
  15. "With the lights off in my room, my vision began 'strobing,' " --exp15375
  16. "My walking felt very odd, and i had some strobing of vision. I also found it diffucult to focus on particular objects, sort of like my eyes were not synchronising properly." --exp20850
  17. "The strobing was VERY intense, almost to the point where I thought it could be the 'framing' effect of high dose DXM, but the fact that I could still see in between the flashes led me to believe otherwise. Sounds were flanging, movement created 'trails,' and objects looked out of proportion." --exp21280
  18. "I also recall some amount of strobing in my vision. I did have open eye visuals, but of a pixellated sort. My vision seemed to have lost much of its resolution, and things appeared to be blotchy or spotted, somewhat like you'd get by putting your eyes really close to a cheap TV. Pixels were subtle to very visible at times. This was about the last thing I recall from that night. " --exp22622
  19. "Previously, all I had gotten off of DXM was a feeling of mild drunkenness and some visual strobing." --exp28497
  20. "My vision is strobing a lot now." --exp32512
  21. "Eidietic imagery, tracers, and strobing of vision. " --exp35736
  22. "The 'strobing' is an effect I experience on marijuana and DXM. It ranges from 'glitchy' like watching poor digital video to full blown strobing similar to being in a strobe light. [...] Slightly strobin' like when I'm on weed. I had begun watching these videos and become entranced by the flashing and movement of the colorful patterns. [...] My vision was strobing pretty strongly as I urinated and while I washed my hands I looked at myself in the mirror. The blinking sensation was disrupting my vision like crazy and I had to strain to try and focus on the image of myself. My sight was like a mix between watching a VHS with bad tracking where the image keeps scrolling continuously down the screen and watching a movie where the camera is jiggling up and down." --exp40483
  23. "I have strobing often with dex but this time the world around me would flick between red, yellow, blue and monochrome at a preset clockwork rhythm as though the colour receptors in my eyes were being flicked on and off in turn. I found this to be quite incredible, if a little disconcerting. It felt to me as though the mechanical nature of my brain and eyes working together were being exposed to me, like some sort of colour test card on a television screen." --exp73866

Flanging #

  1. "Also during the trip I had my head up looking around and when I layed my head back down on the pillow and closed my eyes I experienced flanging of my vision. It looked like I seen still frames flashed up before my eyes in a way. And I saw it after I closed my eyes. If we opened our eyes and looked at the clock on the VCR or a small light and moved our eyes we would see slight tracers also." --exp21538
  2. "Flanging (or phlanging) is the effect where time begins to be stop-action, framing, strobing, etc. The sensation that continuous sensory input has been chopped up into frames. For me, time seemed to stand still whenever I stayed put in either my bedroom or the living room. Time no longer felt continuous." --exp60308
  3. "One thing I noticed more than anything was that the longer I kept closed-eye visuals going before quickly opening my eyes, the stronger the flanging and tracers were-- has anyone else experienced this? They usually seemed to be in the Alpha Wave range (8-12 cycles per second), and were absolutely awesome." --exp7940
  4. "...no sound change, some slight flanging (choppiness in sight) and very mild CEV's that were barely entertaining." --exp9948
  5. "the darkness was a kaliedescope of colour, there was a slight flanging effect where things seemed to stutter," --exp10206
  6. "One thing I noticed more than anything was that the longer I kept closed-eye visuals going before quickly opening my eyes, the stronger the flanging and tracers were-- has anyone else experienced this? They usually seemed to be in the Alpha Wave range (8-12 cycles per second), and were absolutely awesome." --exp7940
  7. "IT was in the bright lights and the commotion of the lobby that I began to notice the flanging. Visuals seemed chopped up and farther away, and I lost all my peripheral vision." --exp14977
  8. "I noticed the 'flanging effect' some speak of - that is, when turning my head rapidly, my vision did not immediately catch up with my new point of view - there was a blurring, stretching, or slideshow effect for a split second." --exp14682
  9. "Flanging (frame relay slowing) was intense, but controlable. " --exp24694
  10. "My vision was flanging at any tiny movement, amplifying their effect and transforming the moving object into a thousand permutations of their original configuration, beyond my recognition of what was moving in the first place. Images of this would persist when I closed my eyes. I could concentrate on this visual remanence and transform it into images of beautiful, almost fractal appearance behind the closed lids of my eyes." --exp41334
  11. "caught in a still frame and flanging along " --exp44794
  12. "Around this time is when I peaked I felt very drunk and the flanging of sensory was so severe that the things I was looking at seemed to go up from the original object and make several different copies of themselves going in whatever direction I looked. " --exp74330

Flanging as Not Stop Motion Effects #

  1. "Visual flanging/waving is noticeable at this point." --exp62422
  2. "Sounds were flanging, movement created 'trails,' and objects looked out of proportion." --exp21280
  3. "Sensory data was also undergoing severe flanging, the feeling of the water on my skin from the shower was only being processed every 3 or 4 seconds," --exp65300
  4. As time loss: "Go to get a glass of water and notice the ultra-intensity of my flanging. The time from opening my bedroom door to getting to the kitchen is chopped out completely." --exp46920
  5. "I was experiencing heavy flanging, to the extent that I could go downstairs, eat something, and then come back upstairs to find that it felt as if I had never went downstairs in the first place." --exp69103

Frames #

  1. "Also during the trip I had my head up looking around and when I layed my head back down on the pillow and closed my eyes I experienced flanging of my vision. It looked like I seen still frames flashed up before my eyes in a way. And I saw it after I closed my eyes. If we opened our eyes and looked at the clock on the VCR or a small light and moved our eyes we would see slight tracers also." --exp21538
  2. "Flanging (frame relay slowing) was intense, but controlable. " --exp24694
  3. "caught in a still frame and flanging along " --exp44794
  4. "Flanging (or phlanging) is the effect where time begins to be stop-action, framing, strobing, etc. The sensation that continuous sensory input has been chopped up into frames. For me, time seemed to stand still whenever I stayed put in either my bedroom or the living room. Time no longer felt continuous." --exp60308
  5. "My vision was completely messed up, it seemed as if every minute or so what I was seeing would freeze frame, and turn into a dream while my eyes were still open... and the frame of what was captured would just seem alien and unrecognizable, the second time I had experienced that phenomena." --exp70856
  6. "The waves coming onto the beach looks almost as if they weren't moving but were freeze-framed there. I don't know I could have just been trying to make myself trip but, it was pretty cool." --exp70482
  7. "It took me about 10 seconds to react to what he said, and my vision was basically freeze frame motion at this point. " --exp2652
  8. "Everything had this freeze frame effect to it. It was like ther was 5 or 6 different frames of what i was seeing piled together in my vision, and they were moving, kind of slideing with strande trails." --exp3887
  9. "The visuals I was experiencing were very fluid; everything seemed to be melting in and out of itself. Also, every now and then it seemed that I was looking at the world in freeze frame! It was as though I was trapped in a surrealist painting (think Salvador Dali) and I was skating around on jello." --exp11085
  10. "Through this experience I remember seeing still frames of my room." --exp29713

Choppy / Chopping / Chopped / Choppiness #

The "chop" terms are not uniquely related to the stop motion effect. Many descriptions using "chop" terms are ambiguous about their meaning and assume the reader already knows what the author means.

  1. "I started getting a little paranoid and not wanting to be around anyone. During 4th Period I couldnt keep my eyes open because everything was so choopy, kinda like a video game with very low frames per second. " --exp12007
  2. "Flanging (or phlanging) is the effect where time begins to be stop-action, framing, strobing, etc. The sensation that continuous sensory input has been chopped up into frames. For me, time seemed to stand still whenever I stayed put in either my bedroom or the living room. Time no longer felt continuous." --exp60308
  3. "the dim glow of my watch glinted in the darkness, and seemed to be moving around in choppy start/stop moition, that was blurry at times and crystal clear at others." --exp24146
  4. "There was buzzing in my left ear and my eye sight was getting chopped into 60 pictures a minut." --exp21967
  5. "I shake my head and things begin looking like a choppy video." --exp33530
  6. "The peak is a lot of choppy vision" --exp12833
  7. "I then began to trip. Choppy vision, slurred speech, a feeling of absolut euphoria." --exp14107
  8. "Everything that I tried to focus on would be very choppy and would look surreal. [...] I couldn't focus on anything, everything looked very far away and so choppy and distorted that I couldn't make anything out." --exp14839
  9. "It was in the bright lights and the commotion of the lobby that I began to notice the flanging. Visuals seemed chopped up and farther away, and I lost all my peripheral vision." --exp14977
  10. "...no sound change, some slight flanging (choppiness in sight) and very mild CEV's that were barely entertaining." --exp9948
  11. "I was getting some really cool tracers. I would turn my head and the light would streak across my field of vision, only it would be choppy." --exp8264
  12. "I used all my energy to concentrate over the blurred and choppy vision, the intense shaking of my limbs," --exp15111
  13. "My vision is extremely choppy at this time," --exp19278
  14. "It started coming on with the slurred speech and choppy vision." --exp23870
  15. "I started to feel kinda sick and everything started to get real loud and everything started to look all choppy." --exp25750
  16. "Your vision becomes highly choppy. " --exp35552
  17. "slightly dodgy balance, and minor choppiness of vision. " --exp40577
  18. "My vision was very choppy and when I tried to look at the clock It looked like it kept bouncing up and down and it took a while for me to be able to read it. " --exp53689
  19. "I remember walking to the shoppette and my vision being crazy choppy(we call it cori vision). everything was trailing and zig zaggy." --exp63121
  20. "My vision is starting to get choppy. [...] Right now I am slightly dissociated and I have choppy vision. [...] My vision is still really choppy. [...]" --exp66154
  21. "My vision had kind of lost focus, things were blurring together, my vision was a bit choppy. " --exp67685
  22. "Or I had been in a coma on the couch? I opened my eyes, and my vision was choppy. My peripheals no longer swirled, but I could not make sense of anything. My vision was flicking up and down like a movie reel that was put in incorrectly." --exp67990
  23. "Time dilation is extreme, and my eyes like to close more often. What I do see is choppy, and when I am not moving, it is either very far away or very close, or big, or small." --exp74379
  24. "My vision was slow and choppy and felt like it was fading to black." --exp30522

Chopped Not as Visual Stop Motion Effect #

  1. "Go to get a glass of water and notice the ultra-intensity of my flanging. The time from opening my bedroom door to getting to the kitchen is chopped out completely." --exp46920

Freeze / Freezing #

  1. "My visions were starting to freeze in place, as if everything were crystallizing or being coated in wax." --exp1883
  2. "My vision was completely messed up, it seemed as if every minute or so what I was seeing would freeze frame, and turn into a dream while my eyes were still open... and the frame of what was captured would just seem alien and unrecognizable, the second time I had experienced that phenomena." --exp70856
  3. "This effect is given a variety of different names, including strobing, flanging, trails, lag, clipping, freeze framing, disturbances in motion, and film stripping." DXM FAQ

Lag #

  1. "After about 1.75 hrs, clipping errors (perceptual distortion of vestibular & visual systems, best described as a 'lag' in visual processing--it takes a while for things to catch up after movement) set in." --exp26035
  2. "Called friend, lag effect witnessed when dialing." --exp38405
  3. "Slight lag when shifting the eye, moderate loss of focus (which remained for hours after this)" --exp19951
  4. "You also experience lag vision, you look one way and things speed up really fast, it feels as if your eyes are taking snap shots. Its not that bad." --exp28545
  5. "turned around in my chair seeing everything lag behind my eyes by about a quarter seccond." --exp40813
  6. "I started to feel nauseated when the brain lag happened. (you have to play the game to know what i mean by brain lag-you look away from the screen and the walls are still moving upward like the arrows) --exp65068

Stop Motion #

  1. "I got out of bed and had the stop motion vision and light-headedness again." --exp73918

Slide Show #

  1. "I noticed the 'flanging effect' some speak of - that is, when turning my head rapidly, my vision did not immediately catch up with my new point of view - there was a blurring, stretching, or slideshow effect for a split second." --exp14682
  2. "[...] when I would look away from the computer screen or to look down at the keyboard it almost look like everything was a slideshow, and it seemed like the only thing I could some what focuse on was my comp screen so I tried to not look away from it because the visuals were almost unpleasant feeling [...] it REALLY started to hit me, I didn't think it could get any worse but it did, visuals were really like a slide show and kinda blurry untill I focused in on them and I noticed kinda a wavey effect at the things I looked at." --exp9194
  3. "my vision was clicking like a slide show" --exp68174
  4. "as things got more intense i started getting slideshow vision." --exp41881

Slide Show Not Used to Describe Visual Phenomenon #

  1. "It was like I was watching the inside of my soul being ripped apart and dissected in slow motion, like a time elaspsed slide show." --exp12537

Snap Shots #

  1. "You also experience lag vision, you look one way and things speed up really fast, it feels as if your eyes are taking snap shots. Its not that bad." --exp28545

Disruptions or Disturbances #

  1. "the first plateau sensations begin to be overshadowed by disruptions in sensory processing, as sensory input begins to get "choppy". DXM FAQ

References #
  1. Anonymous. Erowid Correction #cerb32737. May 2009. Also Wikipedia edit May 13, 2009: Akinetopsia oldid 289579663.
  2. Zeki S. "Cerebral akinetopsia (visual motion blindness) A review". Brain. 1991;114(Pt 2):811-24.
  3. Beckers G, Hömberg V. "Cerebral visual motion blindness: transitory akinetopsia induced by transcranial magnetic stimulation of human area V5". Proc Biol Sci. 1992;249(1325):173-8.
  4. <Horton JC, Trobe JD. "Akinetopsia from nefazodone toxicity". Am J Ophthalmol. 1999;128(4):530-1.
  5. Nawrot M. "Disorders of motion and depth". Neurol Clin. Aug 2003;21(3):609-29.
  6. Rizzo M, Nawrot M, Zihl J. "Motion and shape perception in cerebral akinetopsia". Brain. 1995;118(Pt 5):1105-27.
Revision History #
  • v1.0 - May 28, 2009 - Original posting.