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Charles Bonnet Syndrome

NPR currently has an article and audio segment available about David Stewart, a man who lost his sight, and subsequently developed Charles Bonnet Syndrome:

Stewart has Charles Bonnet syndrome, a condition that often affects people with macular degeneration or diabetic eye disease. A surprisingly large percentage of people who lose sight start seeing things, says ophthalmologist Jonathan Trobe of the University of Michigan.

“The brain is doing a mash-up of stored visual memories,” says Trobe. When visual cells in the brain stop getting information — which happens when your rods and cones stop working — the cells compensate, he explains. If there’s no data coming in, they make up images. They hallucinate.

Readers of our anthology Darklore Volume 1 will recognise this syndrome – author/researcher Paul Devereux wrote about it at length in his essay “Visions of the Blind”.

  1. An Inside-out Reality
    THis quote resonated with me:

    “It’s as though, having been deprived of sight, he has figured out a final end run and instead of seeing from the outside in, he now sees from the inside out.”

    Don Hoffman discusses the visual processes involved in our perception in the piece “Dismissing God” available at AntiMatters. He points out that vision is always an inside-out process, though the processes are so elegant and complex that we are unaware of it.

    I found the second article (linked from the first) about the elderly woman who began to have auditory hallucinations of Irish Folk songs fascinating as well.

    It’s that pesky consciousness thing again . . .

  2. By the way . . .
    [quote=Greg]”The brain is doing a mash-up of stored visual memories,” says Trobe. [/quote]

    Would Trobe like to explain exactly how it is that the brain has stored up memories available to “mash together” in such a way as to provide an image perfectly matching the story the subject happens to be listening to?

    And the ‘mashed together’ sailor winked as well.

    The joke’s on someone . . .

    1. probably on us
      It may very well be that “reality” is nothing more than a consensual hallucination

      It’s not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me…
      It’s all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

      Red Pill Junkie

  3. Irreducible Mind
    BTW, there is mention of Charles Bonnet Syndrome in the recent book ‘Irreducible Mind’ (Kelly et al), which they discuss over the course of two pages. Extracts:

    “The precipitating circumstance [for the hallucinations], in this as in other sensory-deprivation syndromes including dreaming, is not so much the *presence* of abnormal activity patter (as in migraine aura) as the *absence* of normal input-driven ones…”

    “The especially interesting finding from recent EEG and fMRI imaging studies is that the self-reported phenomenology of hallucinations in CBS patients correlates with increased activation in the corresponding, functionally specialized subregions of (ventral) visual cortex. Thus for example if patients hallucinated in color, increased activation was found in the color area. This finding is early and tentative, but if correct it poses problems for a conventional causal account.”

    “…We will venture two further predictions in relation to CBS itself: First, inasmuch as CBS amounts to a long term though partial Ganzfeld condition, we expect that sympathetic and open-minded investigation will reveal it to be a fertile source of spontaneous psi effects as well, potentially adaptable for experimental purposes. Second, just as ‘shell-hearing’, like crystal-gazing or ‘scrying’, can elicit psi-conducive forms of hallucinatory activity in normal persons, there ought to be an auditory analog of CBS with similarly psi-conducive properties”

    Kind regards,
    You monkeys only think you’re running things

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