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Non-conscious recognition of affect in the absence of striate cortex

de Gelder, Béatrice1,2,4; Vroomen, Jean1; Pourtois, Gilles1,2; Weiskrantz, Lawrence3

Vision, Central

FUNCTIONAL neuroimaging experiments have shown that recognition of emotional expressions does not depend on awareness of visual stimuli and that unseen fear stimuli can activate the amygdala via a colliculopulvinar pathway. Perception of emotional expressions in the absence of awareness in normal subjects has some similarities with the unconscious recognition of visual stimuli which is well documented in patients with striate cortex lesions (blindsight). Presumably in these patients residual vision engages alternative extra-striate routes such as the superior colliculus and pulvinar. Against this background, we conjectured that a blind-sight subject (GY) might recognize facial expressions presented in his blind field. The present study now provides direct evidence for this claim.

1Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, Tilburg University, PO Box 90153, 5000 LE Tilburg, The Netherlands

2Neurophysiology Laboratory, Faculty of Medicine, Louvain University, Belgium

3Department of Psychology, Oxford University, UK

4Corresponding Author: Béatrice de Gelder

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: This research was supported by ARC 95/00–189.

Received 18 August 1999; accepted 28 September 1999

© 1999 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.