Neuroscientists at Western University’s Brain and Mind Institute, have confirmed and detailed a rare case of a blind woman able to see objects — but only if in motion.
A team led by neuropsychologist Jody Culham has conducted the most extensive analysis and brain mapping to date of a blind patient, to help understand the remarkable vision of a 48-year-old Scottish woman, Milena Canning.
Glaswegian ophthalmologist Gordon Dutton referred Canning to the Brain and Mind Institute in London, Canada, where tests by Culham’s team included functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to examine the real-time structure and workings of her brain.
They determined Canning has a rare phenomenon called Riddoch syndrome — in which a blind person can consciously see an object if moving but not if stationary.
“She is missing a piece of brain tissue about the size of an apple at the back of her brain — almost her entire occipital lobes, which process vision,” says Culham, a professor in the Department of Psychology and Graduate Program in Neuroscience.
“In Milena’s case, we think the ‘super-highway’ for the visual system reached a dead end. But rather than shutting down her whole visual system, she developed some ‘back roads’ that could bypass the superhighway to bring some vision — especially motion — to other parts of the brain.”