Patients with blindsight are not consciously aware of visual stimuli in the affected field of vision but retain nonconscious perception. This disability can be resolved if nonconsciously perceived information can be brought to their conscious awareness. It can be accomplished by manipulating neural network of visual awareness. To understand this network, we studied the pattern of cortical activity elicited during processing of visual stimuli with or without conscious awareness. The analysis indicated that a re-entrant signaling loop between the area V3A (located in the extrastriate cortex) and the frontal cortex is critical for processing conscious awareness. The loop is activated by visual signals relayed in the primary visual cortex, which is damaged in blindsight patients. Because of the damage, V3A-frontal loop is not activated and the signals are not processed for conscious awareness. These patients however continue to receive visual signals through the lateral geniculate nucleus. Since these signals do not activate the V3A-frontal loop, the stimuli are not consciously perceived. If visual input from the lateral geniculate nucleus is appropriately manipulated and made to activate the V3A-frontal loop, blindsight patients can regain conscious vision.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was partly supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health ( R01NS073884 ; R21MH079435 ) and the VA Medical Center, Buffalo, NY.