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Motion detection is typically spared in blindsight, which results from damage to the striate cortex (area V1) of the brain that is sufficient to eliminate conscious visual awareness and severely reduce sensitivity to luminance contrast, especially for high spatial and low temporal frequencies. Here we show that the discrimination of motion direction within cortically blind fields is not attributable to feature tracking (the detection of changes in position or shape), but is due instead to the detection of first-order motion energy (spatiotemporal changes in luminance). The key to this finding was a version of the line motion illusion entailing reverse-phi motion in which opposing motion directions are simultaneously cued by motion energy and changes in stimulus shape. In forced-choice tests, a blindsighted test subject selected the direction cued by shape change when the stimulus was presented in his intact field, but reliably selected the direction cued by motion energy when the same stimulus was presented in his blind field, where relevant position information was either inaccessible or invalid. Motion energy has been characterized as objectless, so reliance on motion energy detection is consistent with impaired access to shape information in blindsight. The dissociation of motion direction by visual field (cortically blind vs. intact) provides evidence that two pathways from the retina to MT/V5 (the cortical area specialized for motion perception) are functionally distinct: the retinogeniculate pathway through V1 is specialized for feature-based motion perception, whereas the retinocollicular pathway, which bypasses V1, is specialized for detecting motion energy.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date





876 - 881


Blindness, Hemianopsia, Humans, Illusions, Male, Middle Aged, Motion, Motion Perception, Photic Stimulation, Vision, Ocular, Visual Cortex, Visual Fields, Visual Pathways