The sensations produced by electrical stimulation of the visual cortex

J Physiol. 1968 May;196(2):479-93. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1968.sp008519.


1. An array of radio receivers, connected to electrodes in contact with the occipital pole of the right cerebral hemisphere, has been implanted into a 52-year-old blind patient. By giving appropriate radio signals, the patient can be caused to experience sensations of light (;phosphenes') in the left half of the visual field.2. The sensation caused by stimulation through a single electrode is commonly a single very small spot of white light at a constant position in the visual field; but for some electrodes it is two or several such spots, or a small cloud.3. For weak stimuli the map of the visual field on the cortex agrees roughly with the classical maps of Holmes and others derived from war wounds. With stronger stimuli, additional phosphenes appear; these follow a map that is roughly the classical map inverted about the horizontal meridian.4. The phosphenes produced by stimulation through electrodes 2.4 mm apart can be easily distinguished. By stimulation through several electrodes simultaneously, the patient can be caused to see predictable simple patterns.5. The effects of the duration and frequency of stimulating pulses on the threshold have been explored.6. For cortical phosphenes there is no sharp flicker fusion frequency, and probably no flicker fusion frequency at all.7. During voluntary eye movements, the phosphenes move with the eyes. During vestibular reflex eye movements they remain fixed in space.8. Phosphenes ordinarily cease immediately when stimulation ceases, but after strong stimulation they sometimes persist for up to 2 min.9. Our findings strongly suggest that it will be possible, by improving our prototype, to make a useful prosthesis.

MeSH terms

  • Accommodation, Ocular
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Electric Stimulation*
  • Eye Movements / physiology
  • Flicker Fusion
  • Humans
  • Luminescent Measurements
  • Male
  • Methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Prostheses and Implants
  • Radio Waves
  • Stereotaxic Techniques
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology
  • Visual Fields / physiology