Lights from the Dark: Neural Responses from a Blind Visual Hemifield

Front Neurosci. 2017 May 23:11:290. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2017.00290. eCollection 2017.


Here we present evidence that a hemianopic patient with a lesion of the left primary visual cortex (V1) showed an unconscious above-chance orientation discrimination with moving rather than static visual gratings presented to the blind hemifield. The patient did not report any perceptual experience of the stimulus features except for a feeling that something appeared in the blind hemifield. Interestingly, in the lesioned left hemisphere, following stimulus presentation to the blind hemifield, we found an event-related potential (ERP) N1 component at a post-stimulus onset latency of 180-260 ms and a source generator in the left BA 19. In contrast, we did not find evidence of the early visual components C1 and P1 and of the later component P300. A positive component (P2a) was recorded between 250 and 320 ms after stimulus onset frontally in both hemispheres. Finally, in the time range 320-440 ms there was a negative peak in right posterior electrodes that was present only for the moving condition. In sum, there were two noteworthy results: Behaviorally, we found evidence of above chance unconscious (blindsight) orientation discrimination with moving but not static stimuli. Physiologically, in contrast to previous studies, we found reliable ERP components elicited by stimuli presented to the blind hemifield at various electrode locations and latencies that are likely to index either the perceptual report of the patient (N1 and P2a) or, the above-chance unconscious performance with moving stimuli as is the case of the posterior ERP negative component. This late component can be considered as the neural correlate of a kind of blindsight enabling feature discrimination only when stimuli are moving and that is subserved by the intact right hemisphere through interhemispheric transfer.

Keywords: blindsight; event related potential; hemianopia; perceptual awareness.