Phosphene perception is due to the ultra-weak photon emission produced in various parts of the visual system: glutamate in the focus

Rev Neurosci. 2016 Apr 1;27(3):291-9. doi: 10.1515/revneuro-2015-0039.


Phosphenes are experienced sensations of light, when there is no light causing them. The physiological processes underlying this phenomenon are still not well understood. Previously, we proposed a novel biopsychophysical approach concerning the cause of phosphenes based on the assumption that cellular endogenous ultra-weak photon emission (UPE) is the biophysical cause leading to the sensation of phosphenes. Briefly summarized, the visual sensation of light (phosphenes) is likely to be due to the inherent perception of UPE of cells in the visual system. If the intensity of spontaneous or induced photon emission of cells in the visual system exceeds a distinct threshold, it is hypothesized that it can become a conscious light sensation. Discussing several new and previous experiments, we point out that the UPE theory of phosphenes should be really considered as a scientifically appropriate and provable mechanism to explain the physiological basis of phosphenes. In the present paper, we also present our idea that some experiments may support that the cortical phosphene lights are due to the glutamate-related excess UPE in the occipital cortex.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Phosphenes / physiology*
  • Photons
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods
  • Visual Cortex / metabolism*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*


  • Glutamic Acid