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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

November 2008, Vol. 20, No. 11, Pages 1927-1939
(doi: 10.1162/jocn.2008.20139)
© 2008 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Neural Activity within Area V1 Reflects Unconscious Visual Performance in a Case of Blindsight
Article PDF (787.23 KB)

Although lesions of the striate (V1) cortex disrupt conscious vision, patients can demonstrate surprising residual abilities within their affected visual field, a phenomenon termed blindsight. The relative contribution of spared “islands” of functioning striate cortex to residual vision, versus subcortical pathways to extrastriate areas, has implications for the role of early visual areas in visual awareness and performance. Here we describe the behavioral and neural features of residual cortical function in Patient M.C., who sustained a posterior cerebral artery stroke at the age of 15 years. Within her impaired visual field, we found preserved visual abilities characteristic of blindsight, including superior detection of motion, and above-chance discrimination of shape, color, and motion direction. Functional magnetic resonance imaging demonstrated a retinotopically organized representation of M.C.'s blind visual field within the lesioned occipital lobe, specifically within area V1. The incongruity of a well-organized cortex and M.C.'s markedly impaired vision was resolved by measurement of functional responses within her damaged occipital lobe. Attenuated neural contrast-response functions were found to correlate with M.C.'s impaired psychophysical performance. These results demonstrate that the behavioral features of blindsight may arise in the presence of residual striate responses that are spatially organized and sensitive to contrast variation.