Dec 24, 2008 | 1
A man left totally blind by a massive stroke navigated a complex maze of boxes, chairs and other objects without stumbling or colliding into any of the obstacles.
Brain scans showed that after suffering two consecutive strokes, the man, 56, lost all function in his visual cortex, the brain's primary vision-processing center. But despite the loss, an international research team (from the U.S. and five other countries) reports in the journal Current Biology that "he could successfully navigate down the extent of a long corridor in which various barriers were placed."
Neuroscientists call this ability blindsight. People with blindsight, "usually tell you that they cannot see a thing…. They cannot consciously see but they have some type of awareness," says Susana Martinez-Conde, a neuroscientist at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Ariz. For instance, she notes, they will correctly guess the number on flashcards more than 50 percent of the time even though their eyesight is shot.
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