Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Out of sight, out of mind? Not necessarily

02.11.2005


Visual information is processed even when the visual cortex is temporarily shut down

Visual information can be processed unconsciously when the area of the brain that records what the eye sees is temporarily shut down, according to research at Rice University in Houston.

The research, published the week of Oct. 31 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ (PNAS) online Early Edition, suggests the brain has more than one pathway along which visual information can be sent.



For the study, the researchers induced temporary, reversible blindness lasting only a fraction of a second in nine volunteers with normal vision. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a harmless noninvasive technique using brief magnetic pulses, was applied to the volunteers’ visual cortex -- the area at the back of the brain that processes what the eye sees - to interrupt the normal visual pathway. The volunteers looked at a computer screen, and during their momentary blindness, either a horizontal or a vertical line or a red or a green dot flashed on the screen.

Researchers then asked the study participants whether they had seen a horizontal or a vertical line; because their primary visual pathway had been shut down, the participants reported that they saw nothing. However, when forced to guess which line had appeared on their computer screen, the participants gave the correct answer 75 percent of the time. When the participants had to guess whether a red or a green dot had flashed on the screen, they gave the correct answer with 81 percent accuracy.

"This high degree of accuracy for both the directional orientation and color tasks was significantly above chance," said Tony Ro, associate professor of psychology and principal investigator for the study. "Even though the human primary visual cortex activity was temporarily shut down, it’s clear that detailed visual information was still being processed unconsciously."

Because only a certain region of the thalamus - the area of the brain where all sensory information is relayed -- can process color, the study provides evidence that there must be a pathway that goes through this region of the thalamus to the higher visual centers of the brain, Ro said.

"In addition to providing direct evidence that unconscious processing takes place within the brain - a controversial claim that was advanced by the likes of Sigmund Freud and William James - our results suggest that multiple pathways relay visual input into the central nervous system for different types of processing," Ro said. "And our study also begins to shed light on the brain structures that are necessary for consciousness, with the primary visual cortex playing an essential role for visual awareness."

The phenomenon of "blindsight" has been reported in patients with brain damage who report not seeing something but correctly identify the shape and location when forced to guess. Ro noted that his study demonstrates that TMS can be used successfully to induce blindsight in people with normal vision.

Ro’s co-authors on the PNAS paper were graduate student Jennifer Boyer and Stephanie Harrison, a summer intern.

B.J. Almond | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.rice.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Amputees can learn to control a robotic arm with their minds
28.11.2017 | University of Chicago Medical Center

nachricht The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change
17.11.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

Im Focus: Virtual Reality for Bacteria

An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications

Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...

Im Focus: A space-time sensor for light-matter interactions

Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.

The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...

Im Focus: A transistor of graphene nanoribbons

Transistors based on carbon nanostructures: what sounds like a futuristic dream could be reality in just a few years' time. An international research team working with Empa has now succeeded in producing nanotransistors from graphene ribbons that are only a few atoms wide, as reported in the current issue of the trade journal "Nature Communications."

Graphene ribbons that are only a few atoms wide, so-called graphene nanoribbons, have special electrical properties that make them promising candidates for the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

Blockchain is becoming more important in the energy market

05.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Making fuel out of thick air

08.12.2017 | Life Sciences

Rules for superconductivity mirrored in 'excitonic insulator'

08.12.2017 | Information Technology

Smartphone case offers blood glucose monitoring on the go

08.12.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>