She’s blind, but sees movement. Woman’s condition may help us understand brain’s inner workings

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Melina Canning, who had a stroke 20 years ago, with her daughter Stephanie. Image credit: John Jeffay/Cascade News

Milena Canning can see steam rising from a coffee cup but not the cup. She can see her daughter’s ponytail swing from side to side, but she can’t see her daughter. Canning is blind, yet moving objects somehow find a way into her perception. Scientists studying her condition say it could reveal secrets about how humans process vision in general.

Canning was 29 when a stroke destroyed her entire occipital lobe, the brain region housing the visual system. The event left her sightless, but one day she saw a flash of light from a metallic gift bag next to her.

Canning is one of a handful of people who have been diagnosed with the “Riddoch phenomenon,” the ability to perceive motion while blind to other visual stimuli.

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Scans of Canning’s head showed an apple-sized hole where the visual cortex should be. But the lesion apparently spared the brain’s motion-processing region, the middle temporal (MT) visual area. “All the credit [for Canning’s perception] must go to an intact MT,” says Beatrice de Gelder, a neuroscientist at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, who was not involved in the study.

Canning is an eager participant in the researchers’ ongoing study. “If I can help them understand the brain more,” she says, “I could understand why I’m seeing what I’m seeing.”

Read full, original post: Blind Except for Movement: Woman’s Injury Offers Insight into How the Brain Works

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