Learning to detect but not to grasp suppressed visual stimuli

Neuropsychologia. 2013 Nov;51(13):2930-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2013.09.035. Epub 2013 Oct 1.


A central implication of the two-visual-systems hypothesis (TVSH) is that the dorsal visuomotor system (vision-for-action) can make use of invisible information, whereas the ventral system (vision-for-perception) cannot (Milner & Goodale, 1995). Therefore, actions such as grasping movements should be influenced by invisible information while conscious reports remain unaffected. To test this assumption, we used a dichoptic stimulation technique--continuous flash suppression (CFS)--which has the potency to render stimuli invisible for up to seconds (Tsuchiya & Koch, 2005). In two experiments using CFS, participants were asked to grasp for invisible bars of different sizes (Experiment 1) or orientations (Experiment 2), or to report both measures verbally. Target visibility was measured trial-by-trial using the perceptual awareness scale (PAS). We found no evidence for the use of invisible information by the visuomotor system despite extensive training (600 trials) and the availability of haptic feedback. Participants neither learned to scale their maximum grip aperture to the size of the invisible stimulus, nor to align their hand to its orientation. Careful control of stimulus visibility across training sessions, however, revealed a robust tendency towards decreasing perceptual thresholds under CFS. We discuss our results within the framework of the TVSH and with respect to alternative models which emphasize the close functional interaction between the dorsal and ventral visual systems.

Keywords: Blindsight; Consciousness; Dual-stream model; Grasping; Vision.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / physiology
  • Female
  • Hand Strength / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Movement
  • Perceptual Masking / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult