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Old 05-10-2019, 03:48 PM
brossa is offline
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Perception in acquired blindness

My vision is normal. When I close my eyes or am in a dark environment, I feel as though I am looking at blackness, or have a black field in front of my eyes. Subjectively, it seems to take up about 180 degrees in front of me, although I know it's not that wide or tall. On the other hand, I don't have any expected perception of things off to my sides, or behind my head: I don't 'see' blackness behind me. I have read that persons with early visual loss have no sense of 'blackness', or an expected visual field, which makes sense to me. But what about people with blindness acquired later in life - let's assume due to eye/retina/optic nerve causes rather than cortical blindness. Do they continue to 'perceive' blackness in front of them, or does that perception go away with time and lack of input to the visual centers of the brain?

I guess this is partly a question about the plasticity of the visual cortex, too. Without input, is the visual cortex rewired for other purposes?
Old 05-10-2019, 04:08 PM
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It's all over the place depending on the type of blindness, the person, etc.

But there are remarkable things in some people. E.g., some people who lose half their visual field do not see a blank half field or any such. Some even deny that they are not seeing a lot of what is right in front of them. The brain just works extra hard to patch over things so the person doesn't notice a thing wrong with their vision.

They are so many layers between the basic visual detection to "Hey, there's a rabbit over there!" that it's possible to understand how people just don't notice the missing parts of their field.

A small scale, everyday, example of this are the blind spots in each of your eyes. The standard test where you look at a dot with one eye and a "+" near it disappears shows what the brain does. There isn't a "black" spot or anything where the "+" is, the background is the same color as the rest of the paper. (You can try this with different colored papers.)

Just think of this filling in as being done for a lot more of the visual field.
Old 05-10-2019, 05:30 PM
Bill Door is offline
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I lost all of the vision in my left eye in 2004 or so. I don't have the sensation of having a huge blank in my visual field; the stuff on the left is just like the stuff behind my head, invisible.

One interesting thing is that when I leave a well lit environment going into a dark room, like when I go into my bedroom which is lit only by a couple of dim lights on electronic devices, there's a brief period where I get the sensation that the little bit of sight is coming in through the dead eye. Once the good eye adapts it goes away. In my head I call it blindsight.

I know it's not coming in through the left eye, I can literally close my good eye and stare at the sun. Nothing comes through, much less the power light on my Roku.
Old 05-10-2019, 06:27 PM
nelliebly is offline
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This isn't quite what you're asking, but I hope it's relevant. I have retinal damage and thus have severely limited peripheral vision. Before the retinal damage, I perceived my field of vision as you do. Now, I...perceive my field of vision as you do. The difference is that while I perceive it that way, in actuality, it isn't there. It's not black or grey or blank off to the sides. Yet if you wave your hand at the 140 degree mark, it simply doesn't exist for me. And in the Goldman Field Vision test, I can't see a light out there, even though I seem to perceive lights and colors while walking around (and running into people, street signs, etc. that are beyond my limited visual field. I can only conclude that my brain is trying to fill in the blank.

Vision is a strange and miraculous thing.
Old 05-10-2019, 11:19 PM
brossa is offline
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My retinas are fine, but I have had migraine aura that involved visual field loss (homonymous hemianopia), where I was unaware of any defect in my vision until I realized I couldn't read road signs. Yes, I was driving at the time. Yes, I pulled over ASAP. My recollection was not of seeing half a blank 'screen', but that the field of view was normal sized even though it wasn't. That's part of the reason for my question: this was a central process involving the visual cortex, and I was wondering about whether the same thing happened in cases where the visual cortex was normal but something happened to the eyes.
Old 05-10-2019, 11:46 PM
rowrrbazzle's Avatar
rowrrbazzle is offline
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If you haven't read the book "The Mind's Eye" by Oliver Sacks, you may find it to be of interest. It descibes cases involving various disturbances to the visual system, including one he experienced.

You may also find his book "Migraines" interesting.
Old 05-11-2019, 03:37 AM
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GreenWyvern is offline
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Originally Posted by rowrrbazzle View Post
If you haven't read the book "The Mind's Eye" by Oliver Sacks, you may find it to be of interest. It descibes cases involving various disturbances to the visual system, including one he experienced.
Seconded! A brilliant book, and Oliver Sacks highlights how completely different the experiences of different blind people can be.

One person created in his mind an accurate virtual picture of his surroundings:

In his letter he also mentioned that he had been blinded in an accident at the age of twenty-one. But although he was “advised to switch from a visual to an auditory mode of adjustment,” he had moved in the opposite direction, resolving to develop instead his inner eye, his powers of visual imagery, to their greatest possible extent.

In this, he said, he had been extremely successful, developing a remarkable power of generating, holding, and manipulating images in his mind, so much so that he had been able to construct a virtual visual world that seemed as real and intense to him as the perceptual one he had lost—indeed, sometimes more real, more intense. This imagery, moreover, enabled him to do things that might have seemed scarcely possible for a blind man.

“I replaced the entire roof guttering of my multi-gabled home single-handed,” he wrote, “and solely on the strength of the accurate and well-focused manipulation of my now totally pliable and responsive mental space.” Torey later expanded on this episode, mentioning the great alarm of his neighbors at seeing a blind man alone on the roof of his house—at night (even though, of course, darkness made no difference to him).

And he felt that his newly strengthened visual imagery enabled him to think in ways that had not been available to him before, allowed him to project himself inside machines and other systems, to envisage solutions, models, and designs.


Torey maintained a cautious and “scientific” attitude to his own visual imagery, taking pains to check the accuracy of his images by every means available. “I learned,” he wrote, “to hold the image in a tentative way, conferring credibility and status on it only when some information would tip the balance in its favor.” He soon gained enough confidence in the reliability of his visual imagery to stake his life upon it, as when he undertook roof repairs by himself. And this confidence extended to other, purely mental projects. He became able “to imagine, to visualize, for example, the inside of a differential gearbox in action as if from inside its casing. I was able to watch the cogs bite, lock and revolve, distributing the spin as required. I began to play around with this internal view in connection with mechanical and technical problems, visualizing how subcomponents relate in the atom, or in the living cell.” This power of imagery was crucial, Torey thought, in enabling him to arrive at a new view of the brain-mind problem by visualizing the brain “as a perpetual juggling act of interacting routines.”

Last edited by GreenWyvern; 05-11-2019 at 03:39 AM.
Old 05-11-2019, 09:34 AM
road_lobo is offline
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What you call blackness is actually dark grey (sort of). See

About plasticity, see

From Wikipedia:
Even though the blind are no longer able to see, the visual cortex is still in active use, although it deals with information different from visual input. Studies found that the volume of white matter (myelinated nerve connections) was reduced in the optic tract, but not in the primary visual cortex itself. However, grey matter volume was reduced by up to 25% in the primary visual cortex. The atrophy of grey matter, the neuron bodies, is likely due to its association with the optic tract.[2] Because the eyes no longer receive visual information, the disuse of the connected optic tract causes a loss of grey matter volume in the primary visual cortex. White matter is thought to atrophy in the same way, although the primary visual cortex is less affected.

For example, blind individuals show enhanced perceptual and attentional sensitivity for identification of different auditory stimuli, including speech sounds. The spatial detection of sound can be interrupted in the early blind by inducing a virtual lesion in the visual cortex using transcranial magnetic stimulation.[3]

The somatosensory cortex is also able to recruit the visual cortex to assist with tactile sensation. Cross modal plasticity reworks the network structure of the brain, leading to increased connections between the somatosensory and visual cortices.[4] Furthermore, the somatosensory cortex acts as a hub region of nerve connections in the brain for the early blind but not for the sighted.[5] With this cross-modal networking the early blind are able to react to tactile stimuli with greater speed and accuracy, as they have more neural pathways to work with. One element of the visual system that the somatosensory cortex is able to recruit is the dorsal-visual stream. The dorsal stream is used by the sighted to identify spatial information visually, but the early blind use it during tactile sensation of 3D objects.[6] However, both sighted and blind participants used the dorsal stream to process spatial information, suggesting that cross modal plasticity in the blind re-routed the dorsal visual stream to work with the sense of touch rather than changing the overall function of the stream.
Old 05-11-2019, 10:55 AM
RaftPeople is offline
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Tangent but interesting:
There is a light reception system identified in the last 10 or 15 years that uses a different mechanism than rods and cones and primarily forwards the signal to mood and circadian rhythm processing areas. But, if I remember correctly, some of this signal does flow to the visual system. Scientists think this may be the mechanism behind some blind people's apparent ability to detect some visual information without being aware of the source.
Old 05-14-2019, 12:46 AM
Man About Town is offline
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Originally Posted by rowrrbazzle View Post
If you haven't read the book "The Mind's Eye" by Oliver Sacks, you may find it to be of interest. It descibes cases involving various disturbances to the visual system, including one he experienced.
One may find "The mind's I" by Daniel Dennet to be of interest too.

Last edited by Man About Town; 05-14-2019 at 12:47 AM.
Old 05-14-2019, 02:15 AM
Hilarity N. Suze is offline
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Location: Denver
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I used to play tennis with a friend, and then she lost the vision in one eye and had to quit because she couldn't manage to hit the ball. No depth perception, everything looked flat.
After three years, suddenly she realized she had adapted and now had depth perception again. She didn't know when it happened, but it happened and she said it now looked the same to her as it had before, with two eyes.
Brains are amazing.
Old 05-14-2019, 01:08 PM
slalexan is offline
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Michigan
Posts: 341
Since the question has been sort of answered, I'll go on a small tangent.

When I was in junior high, I hit my head and sustained a concussion. At the time of the injury, I had actually been knocked unconscious. While there is a lot that I don't remember about that day, I do remember being unconscious. It turns out that consciousness isn't a simple switch of either you are or you aren't. I was only mostly unconscious. I couldn't move or speak but I was aware that I was laying down. I also knew who was standing around me, even after they moved, which was weird because I was sure I couldn't see. It was likely that my eyes were open but I wasn't conscious enough to process all the visual information.


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