JUL 07, 2020 9:30 AM PDT

How Blindsight Helps Us Explain Consciousness

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Blindsight is the phenomenon in which blind people can interact with their environments even though they can't see it. It could be navigating obstacles or even saying what is in front of them with over 90% accuracy. So how does blindsight work? And how may it help explain consciousness? 

To see things, our eyes receive and convert light into information for different parts of the brain to process, until it eventually reaches the primary visual cortex. As this area is damaged in people with blindsight, light picked up by the eyes is not fully processed, and thus does not make it into the person's conscious awareness. 

The information does still get processed however, by other parts of the visual system. And this is what essentially allows people with blindsight to carry out tasks that are otherwise unimaginable for those who can't see. 

The fact that those with blindsight can 'intuit' their surroundings even without their primary visual cortexes is particularly interesting for researchers.

 

The phenomenon may mean that things can draw our attention without us even noticing them. For example, one study found that naked pictures of attractive people draw our attention, even when we don't know they're there. Other studies have shown that we can correctly recognize the color of an object even without being aware of it. 

Whether or not people with blindsight are conscious of their surroundings, even on some level, however, is hotly debated. While some with the ability report a complete lack of awareness of their surroundings, others report being able to sense 'dark shadows'- signaling some sort of guiding awareness. 

Should blindsight not be dependent on awareness, its occurrence may help us understand consciousness. By understanding how the brain can function without awareness, for example, we may be able to work out its evolutionary purpose. 

Even if blindsight comes as the result of some level of awareness, however, investigating it may still raise interesting questions. Henry Taylor, a researcher delving further into the topic from the University of Birmingham, says it may help us answer questions such as: 'What is their consciousness actually like?', 'How does it differ from more familiar kinds of consciousness?', and 'Precisely where in the brain does consciousness begin and end?' 

Sources: The ConversationScience Alert 

About the Author
  • Science writer with keen interests in technology and behavioral biology. Her current focus is on the interplay between these fields to create meaningful interactions, applications and environments.
You May Also Like
JUL 30, 2020
Immunology
Sunshine Could Lower Your Risk of Developing MS
JUL 30, 2020
Sunshine Could Lower Your Risk of Developing MS
In multiple sclerosis, or MS, the insulating sheaths around nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord called myelin becom ...
AUG 06, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Fragile X Model Has a Very Specific Brain Abnormality
AUG 06, 2020
Fragile X Model Has a Very Specific Brain Abnormality
Cilia are like little antennae on cells, and most cells have one. If they're dysfunctional, it can cause serious problem ...
AUG 22, 2020
Neuroscience
Why Don't Babies Always Remember What they Learn?
AUG 22, 2020
Why Don't Babies Always Remember What they Learn?
Researchers from Ruhr- Universitaet Bochum (RUB) in Germany have found that the mood babies are in when they learn somet ...
SEP 16, 2020
Immunology
Depression, but Not Anxiety, Causes Inflammation and Metabolic Imbalances
SEP 16, 2020
Depression, but Not Anxiety, Causes Inflammation and Metabolic Imbalances
Scientists have discovered that depressed individuals show higher levels of inflammation as well as elevated fat concent ...
SEP 16, 2020
Neuroscience
Blood Lipid Levels Predict Depression and Anxiety
SEP 16, 2020
Blood Lipid Levels Predict Depression and Anxiety
While people often experience anxiety and depression together, psychiatrists classify them as different disorders. And n ...
SEP 21, 2020
Neuroscience
Insufficient Sleep Makes It Harder to Enjoy Life, Study Says
SEP 21, 2020
Insufficient Sleep Makes It Harder to Enjoy Life, Study Says
A growing body of research stresses the importance of getting a good night's sleep- whether it's to bolster your ...
Loading Comments...