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PostPosted: Mon Jul 05, 2010 8:45 am 
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Joined: Thu Sep 25, 2008 3:16 pm
Posts: 249
Location: Uppsala, Sweden
Blindsight is more than the title of Dr Peter Watts' wonderful, science-driven, book. It also names a psychological phenomenon whose correct explanation can modify our view of the kinds of beings we are. It has puzzled philosophers and psychologists since its discovery in the early 70s (although anecdotal evidence has been around much longer). Briefly, one has blindsight if one is somehow and on some occasions visually aware of some environmental features, while apparently seeing nothing (i.e. having no visual sensations). What is consciousness then, if one can be visually aware of something one does not see?. What is it about the mind and/or brain that makes such a weird state of mind possible? These questions are important for science and SF, as Peter Watts has shown.

An early suggestion was that there are at least two visual pathways in the brain (I'm simplifying). One goes from the eye, through a relay station called the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN), then to the cortex's primary visual area called VA1, and from there to other brain areas. The result is the perception of the environment with its objects (e.g. a table in a room).

The second area was conjectured to go from eye, to LGN, and from there not to VA1 but somewhere else. It was recently confirmed in detail and reported on in Nature, on 23 June of this year. It was shown that shutting down the LGN of animals with visually impaired VA1 shut down their blindsight too. A clear introduction is online right here.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 05, 2010 2:53 pm 
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Joined: Tue Mar 06, 2007 10:00 am
Posts: 632
Location: Swansea
I have a particular knowledge of this 'blindsight' phenomenon as I experience it each time I open my wife's wardrobe and see at least a hundred pairs of her shoes, she opens it and hardly sees any... :shock:

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