Stoerig and Cowey’s work is widely regarded as showing that monkeys with lesions in the primary visual cortex have blindsight. However, Mole and Kelly persuasively argue that the experimental results are compatible with an alternative hypothesis positing only a deficit in attention and perceptual working memory. I describe a revised procedure which can distinguish these hypotheses, and offer reasons for thinking that the blindsight hypothesis provides a superior explanation. The study of blindsight might contribute towards a general (...) investigation into animal consciousness, though there is a problem when it comes to showing how a non-verbal animal can indicate whether or not it is perceiving consciously. Perhaps whether there is something that it is like to be a given animal depends on whether it exhibits the cognitive profile of conscious vision as opposed to non-conscious “natural blindsight.”. (shrink)
Blindsight is the ability of patients with an impaired visual cortex to perform visually in their blind field without acknowledging that performance. This ability has been interpreted as a sign of the absence of phenomenal consciousness, and neuroscientific studies have extensively studied cases of it. Different proposals separate visual form recognition from motion perception, and attempt to show that either the former or the latter is solely responsible for blindsight performance. However, a review of current experimental evidence shows (...) that a poor performance (on both form and motion) is accompanied by poor awareness. Blindsight cases do not influence the qualia debate, because they denote a severe visual performance deficit, and not because of a purportedly non-phenomenal nature of consciousness. (shrink)
In a recent response paper to Brogaard (2011a), Morten Overgaard and Thor Grünbaum argue that my case for the claim that blindsight subjects are not visually conscious of the stimuli they correctly identify rests on a mistaken necessary criterion for determining whether a conscious experience is visual or non-visual. Here I elaborate on the earlier argu- ment while conceding that the question of whether blindsight subjects are visually con- scious of the visual stimuli they correctly identify largely is (...) an empirical question. I conclude by sketching a method for testing whether blindsight subjects have visual con- sciousness of stimuli presented to them in their blind ﬁeld. (shrink)
Newell and Shanks (2012) argue that an explanation for blindsight need not appeal to unconscious brain processes, citing research indicating that the condition merely reflects degraded visual experience. We reply that other evidence suggests that blindsighters’ predictive behavior under forced choice reflects cognitive access to low-level visual information that does not correlate with visual consciousness. Thus, while we grant that visual consciousness may be required for full visual experience, we argue that it may not be needed for decision making (...) and judgment. (shrink)
The term blindsight describes the non-reflexive visual functions that remain or recover in fields of absolute cortical blindness. As visual stimuli confined to such fields are subjectively invisible, they are customarily announced by visible or audible cues that inform the patients when to respond. The pervasive use of cueing has spawned the widely held assumption that sight and blindsight differ in that only blindsight requires cueing. To test this assumption, we measured detection of auditorily cued and un-cued (...) stimuli in three hemianopic patients. Stimuli fell onto the photosensitive retina of the subjectively blind field, onto the objectively blind optic disc, and, in one patient, into a region where they evoked impoverished conscious sight. Regardless of whether cues were given, performance was highly significant in the latter region of poor sight, clearly above chance in the subjectively blind field, and random in the optic disc control condition. Moreover, cues enhanced detection only in the relatively blind field. Showing that blindsight performance persists when cues are omitted, the results imply that non-reflexive responses can be initiated in the absence of both stimulus awareness and perceptible cues. (shrink)
Despite their subjective invisibility, stimuli presented within regions of absolute cortical blindness can both guide forced-choice behaviour when they are task-relevant and modulate responses to visible targets when they are task-irrelevant. We here tested three hemianopic patients to learn whether their performance in an attention-demanding rapid serial visual presentation task would be affected by task-irrelevant stimuli. Per trial, nine black letters and one white target-letter appeared briefly at fixation; the white letter was to be named at the end of each (...) trial. On 50% of trials, a task-irrelevant disk (-.6 log contrast) was presented to the blind field; in separate blocks, the same or a very low negative contrast distractor was presented to the sighted field. Mean error rates were high and independent of distractor condition, although the high contrast sighted-field disk impaired performance significantly in one participant. However, when trials with and without distractors were considered separately, performance was most impaired by the high contrast disk in the blind field, whereas the same disk in the sighted field had no effect. As this disk was least visible in the blind and most visible in the sighted field, attentional suppression was inversely related to visibility. We suggest that visual awareness, or the processes that generate it and are compromised in the blind hemisphere, enhances or enables effective attentional suppression. (shrink)
Some patients with damaged striate cortex have blindsight-the ability to discriminate unseen stimuli in their clinically blind visual field defects when forced-choice procedures are used. Blindsight implies a sharp dissociation between visual performance and visual awareness, but signal detection theory indicates that it might be indistinguishable from the behavior of normal subjects near the lower limit of conscious vision, where the dissociations could arise trivially from using different response criteria during clinical and forced-choice tests. We tested the latter (...) possibility with a hemianopic subject during yes-no and forced-choice detection of static and moving targets. His response criterion differed significantly between yes-no and forced-choice responding, and the difference was sufficient to produce a blindsight-like dissociation with bias-sensitive measures of performance. When measured independently of bias, his sensitivity to static targets was greater in the forced-choice than in the yes-no task (unlike normal control subjects), but his sensitivity to moving targets did not differ. Differences in response criterion could therefore account for dissociations between yes-no and forced-choice detection of motion, but not of static pattern. The results explain why patients with blindsight are apparently more often ''aware'' of moving stimuli than of static stimuli. However, they also imply that blindsight is unlike normal vision near threshold, and that pattern- and motion-detection in blindsight may depend on different sets of neural mechanisms during yes-no and forced-choice tests. (shrink)
Blindsight, the ability to blindly discriminate wavelength and other aspects of stimuli in a blind field, sometimes occurs in people with lesions to striate (V1) cortex. There is currently no consensus on whether qualitative color information of the sort that is normally computed by double opponent cells in striate cortex is indeed computed in blindsight but doesn?t reach awareness, perhaps owing to abnormal neuron responsiveness in striate or extra-striate cortical areas, or is not computed at all. The existence (...) of primesight, the experience of colored afterimages in blindsight, has been taken to suggest that qualitative color information is computed either in pre-striate or striate cortical areas but is not broadcast to working memory. I argue here that a recent study in which color phosphenes were induced in a blindsighter using bilateral transcranial magnetic stimulation indicates that computations necessary for conscious color vision are lost in blindsight. Owing to this loss, the neural responsiveness in extrastriate cortical areas is abnormal and hence is unable to give rise to color awareness. Blindsight is thus degraded vision in which the computations necessary for conscious color vision have been lost. (shrink)
: The work of Alan Cowey and Petra Stoerig is often taken to have shown that, following lesions analogous to those that cause blindsight in humans, there is blindsight in monkeys. The present paper reveals a problem in Cowey and Stoerig ’ s case for blindsight in monkeys. The problem is that Cowey and Stoerig ’ s results would only provide good evidence for blindsight if there is no difference between their two experimental paradigms with regard (...) to the sorts of stimuli that are likely to come to consciousness. We show that the paradigms could differ in this respect, given the connections that have been shown to exist between working memory, perceptual load, attention, and consciousness. (shrink)
The work of Alan Cowey and Petra Stoerig is often taken to have shown that, following lesions analogous to those that cause blindsight in humans, there is blindsight in monkeys. The present paper reveals a problem in Cowey and Stoerig's case for blindsight in monkeys. The problem is that Cowey and Stoerig's results would only provide good evidence for blindsight if there is no difference between their two experimental paradigms with regard to the sorts of stimuli (...) that are likely to come to consciousness. We show that the paradigms could differ in this respect, given the connections that have been shown to exist between working memory, perceptual load, attention, and consciousness. (shrink)
The neural substrate of early visual processing in the macaque is used as a framework to discuss recent progress towards a precise anatomical localization and understanding of the functional implications of the syndromes of blindsight, achromatopsia and akinetopsia in humans. This review is mainly concerned with how these syndromes support the principles of organization of the visual system into parallel pathways and the functional hierarchy of visual mechanisms.
The evidence of blindsight is occasionally used to argue that we can see things, and thus have perceptual belief, without the distinctive visual awareness accompanying normal sight; thereby displacing phenomenality as a component of the concept of vision. I maintain that arguments to this end typically rely on misconceptions about blindsight and almost always ignore associated visual (or visuomotor) pathologies relevant to the lessons of such cases. More specifically, I conclude, first, that the phenomena very likely do not (...) result from dissociations within a single system, but from the interaction of evolutionarily distinct, if interacting, systems; second, that a closer study of spared motor abilities indicates that verbal responses of patients result not from degraded vision but from proprioception; and, finally, above chance verbal responses, being forced guesses, are not tentative beliefs and cannot become beliefs just by training patients to have more confidence in their responses. (shrink)
Cortical color blindness, or cerebral achromatopsia, has been likened by some authors to ''blindsight'' for color or an instance of ''covert'' processing of color. Recently, it has been shown that, although such patients are unable to identify or discriminate hue differences, they nevertheless show a striking ability to process wavelength differences, which can result in preserved sensitivity to chromatic contrast and motion in equiluminant displays. Moreover, visually evoked cortical potentials can still be elicited in response to chromatic stimuli. We (...) suggest that these demonstrations reveal intact residual processes rather than the operation of covert processes, where proficient performance is accompanied by a denial of phenomenal awareness. We sought evidence for such covert processes by conducting appropriate tests on achromatopsic subject M.S. An ''indirect'' test entailing measurement of reaction times for letter identification failed to reveal covert color processes. In contrast, in a forced choice oddity task for color, M.S. was unable to verbally indicate the position of the different color, but was surprisingly adept at making an appropriate eye movement to its location. This ''direct'' test thus revealed the possible covert use of chromatic differences. (shrink)
The filling-in process proposed as a cover up for the existence of the blind spot has some conceptual similarities to blindsight. The perceptual operation of a hypothetical mechanism responsible for filling in represents a logical paradox. The apparent indeterminacy of the percept in the optic-disc region can be tested experimentally by viewing the grating test pattern below.
Blindsight is classically defined as residual visual capacity, e.g., to detect and identify visual stimuli, in the total absence of perceptual awareness following lesions to V1. However, whereas most experiments have investigated what blindsight patients can and cannot do, the literature contains several, often contradictory, remarks about remaining visual experience. This review examines closer these remarks as well as experiments that directly approach the nature of possibly spared visual experiences in blindsight.
Blindsight is an unusual condition where the sufferer can respond to visual stimuli, while lacking any conscious feeling of having seen the stimuli. It occurs after a particular form of brain injury. The first edition of 'Blindsight', by one of the pioneers in the field - Lawrence Weiskrantz, reported studies of a patient with this condition. It was an important, much cited publication. In the past twenty years, further work has been done in this area, and this new (...) edition brings the book up to date. Retaining the original text, but adding substantial new chapters and colour illustrations, the first section of the book summarizes findings on DB since the last published account in 1986. The second part includes information on other new research that has occurred since the last edition. As well as giving an account of research over a number of years into a particular case of blindsight, it provides a discussion of the historical and neurological background, a review of cases reported by other investigators, and a number of theoretical and practical issues and implications. -/- The book will be valuable for cognitive psychologists and cognitive neuroscientists, as well as philosophers of mind. (shrink)
David Milner and Melvyn Goodale’s dissociation hypothesis is commonly taken to state that there are two functionally specialized cortical streams of visual processing originating in striate (V1) cortex: a dorsal, action-related “unconscious” stream and a ventral, perception-related “conscious” stream. As Milner and Goodale acknowledge, findings from blindsight studies suggest a more sophisticated picture that replaces the distinction between unconscious vision for action and conscious vision for perception with a tripartite division between unconscious vision for action, conscious vision for perception, (...) and unconscious vision for perception. The combination excluded by the tripartite division is the possibility of conscious vision for action. But are there good grounds for concluding that there is no conscious vision for action? There is now overwhelming evidence that illusions and perceived size can have a significant effect on action (Bruno & Franz, 2009; Dassonville & Bala, 2004; Franz & Gegenfurtner, 2008; McIntosh & Lashley, 2008). There is also suggestive evidence that any sophisticated visual behavior requires collaboration between the two visual streams at every stage of the process (Schenk & McIntosh, 2010). I nonetheless want to make a case for the tripartite division between unconscious vision for action, conscious vision for perception, and unconscious vision for perception. My aim here is not to refute the evidence showing that conscious vision can affect action but rather to argue (a) that we cannot gain cognitive access to action-guiding dorsal stream representations, and (b) that these representations do not correlate with phenomenal consciousness. This vindicates the semi-conservative view that the dissociation hypothesis is best understood as a tripartite division. (shrink)