Making sense of blindsense: a reply to Phillips

Cortex. 2020 Jun:127:393-395. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2020.03.004. Epub 2020 Mar 24.

Abstract

We recently published the results of a study on the occurrence of blindsight among eight, post-stroke homonymous hemianopic (HH) patients (Garric et al., 2019), in whom we measured blindsight through forced-choice tasks and assessed perceptual experiences by a new awareness scale, the Sensation Awareness Scale (SAS). Within the cohort, we found different profiles of dissociation between objective and subjective performance. Importantly, we were able to describe several cases of a dissociation phenomenon that we named blindsense, whereby patients exhibited marked subjective sensitivity in their blind hemifield despite being unable to discriminate the different stimuli. Following publication of our article (Garric et al., 2019), Prof. Ian Phillips (Phillips, 2019) wrote a Commentary in which he questioned the methodology we used to measure and analyze objective and subjective perception in our HH patients. As opposed to our original interpretation of our results to describe the new profile of blindsense, based on a non-visual experience hypothesis (Kentridge, 2015), Prof. Phillips re-evaluated the different blindsight profiles that we identified in our study through the lens of a degraded conscious vision hypothesis (Overgaard, Fehl, Mouridsen, Bergholt, & Cleeremans, 2008). In the present response, we explain that, although we agree that dichotomous visual scales lead to highly conservative responses and mask conscious perceptual experience of patients, we still support the notion that nuanced report protocols can enable more-sensitive measurements of perceptual experiences in the hemianopic, so-called blind visual field. Furthermore, we affirm that the additional awareness-scale phenomenal levels that such protocols enable are more consistent with patients' experiences and lead patients to provide more liberal responses when describing their subjective perceptions.

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

Publication types

  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Hemianopsia*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Vision, Ocular
  • Visual Fields
  • Visual Perception*