Researchers Map Brain of Blind Woman Capable of Visualizing Objects in Motion

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Neuroscientists at the Brain and Mind Institute (BMI) at Western University in Canada reported rare case of a blind woman capable of visualizing objects in motion.

Milena Canning, a 48-year old Scottish woman, suffered a respiratory infection and series of strokes 18 years ago. She emerged from an eight week coma with blindness. However, she was stunned to discover that she could see a moving object, like a flash of green light. Jody Culham, a neuropsychologist at BMI analyzed and mapped her brain to comprehend the remarkable vision of Canning. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) was conducted to study the functioning of her brain in real time.

The reports reveal that the stroke impaired her visual processing centers, which stopped her from seeing objects. However, she had acquired an ability to see objects in motion. This rare behavior is known as Riddoch syndrome. Although Canning’s brain is missing an entire tissue of occipital lobes, she has developed a back door to bring some vision when objects are in motion. The report was published in Neuropsychologia on May 8, 2018.

During the study, Canning could recognize the motion of a ball when thrown at her and even garb it at the right time. She could easily walk through chairs. However, she failed to identify the color of the ball or the chairs. Her sense of motion has in a way recovered her ability to see. The research provides insight of the plasticity of the human brain to find alternatives after a catastrophic injury and proves that definitions of sight and blindness are fuzzier than previously believed. Canning stated that even if she could not see like other people, she saw things strangely and she believed that her brain is trying to rewrite itself to understand and see the surroundings around her.

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