Human blindsight is mediated by an intact geniculo-extrastriate pathway.
Ajina S., Pestilli F., Rokem A., Kennard C., Bridge H.
Although damage to the primary visual cortex (V1) causes hemianopia, many patients retain some residual vision; known as blindsight. We show that blindsight may be facilitated by an intact white-matter pathway between the lateral geniculate nucleus and motion area hMT+. Visual psychophysics, diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging and fibre tractography were applied in 17 patients with V1 damage acquired during adulthood and 9 age-matched controls. Individuals with V1 damage were subdivided into blindsight positive (preserved residual vision) and negative (no residual vision) according to psychophysical performance. All blindsight positive individuals showed intact geniculo-hMT+ pathways, while this pathway was significantly impaired or not measurable in blindsight negative individuals. Two white matter pathways previously implicated in blindsight: (i) superior colliculus to hMT+ and (ii) between hMT+ in each hemisphere were not consistently present in blindsight positive cases. Understanding the visual pathways crucial for residual vision may direct future rehabilitation strategies for hemianopia patients.