Blindsight – a definite example of subconscious vision
This video about blindsight demonstrates that some blind people can “see” using their subconscious mind. In this case, the patients eyes are functioning perfectly but his brain has been damaged by a stroke and the part of his brain that forms conscious images is not working. So consciously, he is totally blind. However, the video shows that he can still “see”, at least at the level of the subconscious. The obvious conclusion is that the subconscious mind makes use of the input of the eyes in other ways in addition to the act of forming conscious images. That’s amazing. The brain is taking the visual information and doing lots of things with it. This patients brain can no longer form visual images, but it can still preform the other tasks, and these are what allow him to avoid the obstacles placed in front of him.
Subconscious vision – even when the eyes don’t work
In this article from Mount Holyoke News called Subconscious vision: the key to understanding sleep and blindness (April 2013) there is a description of the research carried out by Dr. Michael Do (formerly a post-doc at John Hopkins University and now at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School). His earlier research, in 1995, showed that blind patients (where the rods and cones of the eyes aren’t functioning) responded to light by noticeably altering their melatonin levels. In understanding this, he discovered that the retina is covered with a protein called “melanopsin” and researchers now know that this is importantly linked to the control of our circadian rhythm (our daily, internal body clock).
These results are backed up by research at the University of Montreal and Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Again, blind patients with non-functioning rods and cones respond to light and here they say it’s because of specialized photoreceptors on the retina. I’m not sure if this is exactly the same thing as Dr. Do’s protein melanopsin, but I assume so. They took this study a bit further and showed that the blind patients alertness and cognitive regulation improved when they were exposed to light (suggests a link to the need to be more alert during the day and why we like to have bright light when we’re trying to concentrate on a task).
All of this demonstrates that the subconscious brain is aware of more than the conscious brain. Even in patients whose “rods and cones” of the eyes aren’t working (and the information needed to form conscious images in not even coming in through the eyes), the information from the melanopsin is being passed to the subconscious and, therefore, blind people can be aware of daylight and the existence of bright lights. The subconscious is using information from the eyes to automatically regulate our daily body clocks, make as alert during the day and less alert and prepared for sleep during the night.
This is just a small insight into the power of the subconscious and all of the things it is doing in the background for us. It’s important for us to be aware of these things and to know that we can consciously control them, if we want to.