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From affective blindsight to emotional consciousness

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Abstract

Following destruction or denervation of the primary visual cortex (V1) cortical blindness ensues. Affective blindsight refers to the uncanny ability of such patients to respond correctly, or above chance level, to visual emotional expressions presented to their blind fields. Fifteen years after its original discovery, affective blindsight still fascinates neuroscientists and philosophers alike, as it offers a unique window on the vestigial properties of our visual system that, though present in the intact brain, tend to be unnoticed or even actively inhibited by conscious processes. Here we review available studies on affective blindsight with the intent to clarify its functional properties, neural bases and theoretical implications. Evidence converges on the role of subcortical structures of old evolutionary origin such as the superior colliculus, the pulvinar and the amygdala in mediating affective blindsight and nonconscious perception of emotions. We conclude that approaching consciousness, and its absence, from the vantage point of emotion processing may uncover important relations between the two phenomena, as consciousness may have evolved as an evolutionary specialization to interact with others and become aware of their social and emotional expressions.

    Research areas

  • Amygdala, Awareness, BODY LANGUAGE, Cortical blindness, Emotion, FACIAL EXPRESSIONS, FEAR-POTENTIATED STARTLE, FUNCTIONAL CONNECTIVITY, HEMIANOPIC PATIENTS, HUMAN AMYGDALA, INTERHEMISPHERIC SUMMATION, Pulvinar, STRIATE CORTEX V1, SUPERIOR COLLICULUS, Superior colliculus, V1, VISUAL CONDITIONED-STIMULI
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Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)414-425
Number of pages12
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
Volume36
Issue numberNovember
Early online date6 Jun 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015