Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Accurate visual movement without visual perception in normal subjects

An interesting article by Christensen et al. demonstrates blindsight in normal subjects:
Clinical cases of blindsight have shown that visually guided movements can be accomplished without conscious visual perception. Here, we show that blindsight can be induced in healthy subjects by using transcranial magnetic stimulation over the visual cortex. Transcranial magnetic stimulation blocked the conscious perception of a visual stimulus, but subjects still corrected an ongoing reaching movement in response to the stimulus. The data show that correction of reaching movements does not require conscious perception of a visual target stimulus, even in healthy people.
Here is part of their analysis:
It has been suggested that an important mechanism for the ability to perform fast corrections of goal-directed movement is an efference copy (i.e. a parallel signal indicating the expected sensory consequence of a motor command)... The argument is that the initial motor reaction time, when the subject reaches toward the first target, requires that the visual signal is processed via the visual cortex to motor regions of the brain. The advantage of an efference copy is that already at a very early point in the movement process any deviation in the performed movement from the intended movement can be adjusted. Hence, lower reaction time during the correction can be accomplished compared with the initial motor reaction time.

Furthermore, our results suggest that the mechanism responsible for fast visually guided corrective movements lies outside visual cortex and that the visual signals used for correction of movements bypass visual cortex. There may be subcortical routes for visually guided reaching that bypass the cortical regions affected by TMS.

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