Blindsight is the ability of patients with primary visual cortex (V1) damage to process information in their clinically blind visual field in the absence of conscious awareness. In addition to those with localized V1 lesions, some patients exhibiting this phenomenon have had a cerebral hemisphere removed or disconnected from the rest of the brain for the treatment of drug-resistant epilepsy (hemispherectomy). Research into the underlying neural substrates of blindsight has long implicated the intact visual cortex in maintaining residual vision and supporting visuo-guided responses to stimuli presented ipsilaterally within the blind visual field while operating outside the geniculo-striate pathway. A recent study demonstrated functional reorganization in the dorsal visual areas of the intact hemisphere, thereby supporting its compensatory role in non-conscious vision. In this study, we used cortical thickness analysis to examine anatomical differences in the visual cortex of the intact hemisphere of three subjects with varying degrees of cortical damage and well documented blindsight: two with a right hemispherectomy (complete and partial), and one with a left V1 lesion. T1-weighted MRI data were obtained for the subjects while control data were chosen from publicly available NKI-dataset to match closely the acquisition parameters of our blindsight cases. Our results show significant increases in cortical thickness in the visual cortex of all blindsight subjects compared to healthy controls, irrespective of age-onset, etiology, and extent of the damage. Our findings add to accumulating evidence from behavioral, functional imaging, and tractography studies of cerebral compensation and reorganization.
|Publication status||Published - 2020|