Blindsight – a glimpse at the power of the subconscious mind
I first came across this in the book Subliminal : how your unconscious mind rules your behavior by Leonard Mlodinow (see chapter 2, Senses plus Mind Equals Reality). In essence, Blindsight is a condition where the eyes actually work perfectly, but there is damage to the part of the brain that forms images from the input from the eyes. These people cannot see anything. They cannot see any images of what their eyes are seeing. But now, the following video is astounding.
Man with blindsight walks around objects in a hallway
Watch this video. A man that is blind walks down a corridor and easily navigates his way around obstacles that were deliberately placed in front of him. This is not trickery. It was analyzed by scientists and the subject of a scientific paper,
Gelder et al. “Intact navigation skills after bilateral loss of striate cortex.” Current Biology, Volume 18, Issue 24, 23 December 2008, Pages R1128-R1129
How can this be?
The subconscious brain enables blindsight
This case shows that the brain uses the input from the eyes for more than just forming images we can consider in our conscious mind. The input from the eyes is also sent to the subconscious brain. In fact, it goes to the subconscious brain first. The subconscious brain is much faster than the conscious and it’s in charge of some very important stuff, like keeping us safe. If there is a danger in front of us, we don’t really want to wait for our conscious brain to consider the image that is formed, we’d rather take evading action even before the image is formed. This is what the subconscious can do. It grabs the raw input from the eye and instantly determines if there is a danger in front of us, even before we have time to turn the inputs into an image. So we can we avoiding a dangerous situation even before we have “seen” it in the conventional sense.
The video above shows that the patient still has perfectly functioning subconscious processing of the inputs from the eyes, even though he has some brain damage that means he cannot form images from these inputs. His subconscious is making him avoid the dangers even though he can’t “see” the dangers. This is what is meant by blindsight – the ability to “see” even though blind. Patients with intact eyes and a damaged image forming part of the brain are rare, so cases of blindsight are not that common.
I find this extremely interesting. It gives us some insight into the power of the subconscious mind and it’s purpose. It’s an incredibly powerful and important part of us.
Have a look a this for details of the patient and these experiments – http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960982208014334
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