Dissociation between objective and subjective perceptual experiences in a population of hemianopic patients: A new form of blindsight?

Cortex. 2019 Aug:117:299-310. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2019.05.006. Epub 2019 May 18.


After a post-chiasmatic lesion, some patients may retain unconscious visual function, known as blindsight, in their contralesional visual field. Despite the importance of blindsight in the study of consciousness, little is known about the nature of patients' experience in their hemianopic field. To address this knowledge gap, we measured blindsight, and assessed the perceptual experience in the contralesional visual field, of seventeen homonymous hemianopic (HH) patients. To ensure that the stimuli were shown in a "blind" sector of the visual field, we selected a subgroup of eight complete-HH patients, as determined by automatic perimetry. Firstly, we measured blindsight through a forced-choice task in which the patients had to identify letters displayed on a screen. Secondly, we compared the patients' binary responses ("Something was presented" vs "Nothing was presented") to responses on a new, five-level scale, the Sensation Awareness Scale (SAS), which we designed to include visual as well as non-visual answers (e.g., "I felt something"). Interestingly, only one of the eight complete-HH patients met the criteria for blindsight. More importantly, our SAS enabled us to identify a previously unreported dissociation, which we have named blindsense, in four of the eight complete-HH patients. Specifically, these four patients exhibited better-than-chance sensitivity to the presence of a stimulus on the subjective scale, despite being unable to identify the stimulus during the forced-choice task. Our findings highlight the importance of awareness-assessment methods to investigate perceptual experiences in the contralesional visual field and suggest a low incidence of blindsight in post-stroke HH patients.

Keywords: Awareness; Blind visual field; Blindsight; Hemianopia; Post-chiasmatic lesion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Awareness / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hemianopsia / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Unconscious, Psychology*
  • Vision Tests
  • Visual Fields / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*