Seeing things

Thursday August 1, 2019

I was discombobulated. A recent afternoon, Spock and I at the dog rescue charity... We took a dog into the woodland, unleashed to enjoy some freedom. Next task was to bring another dog in, to assess their reactions. Spock went to get the next one. They have to be on leads for introductions, so I watched out for his return. Then he appeared, walking down the,long track, bright blue jumper, baseball cap. I walked away to put the lead on my staffie, looked round, Spock was now coming through the gate behind me. I glanced at my dog, looked back, no one there.

The track was empty. He eventually reappeared, having been delayed.

My first fear was this was a premonition. The morning before my grandmother in Ireland had died, a lady came into my bedroom while I was playing, spoke to me and then disappeared. I was six, and had only met her once, when taken to Ireland as a newborn. I was shown a photo, and instantly recognised her. Later that day the telegram arrived.

Spock still very much alive next day, so then I started thinking - dementia, schizophrenia, brain tumour? I was due an eye test that week. No change to my prescription, healthy eyes.

I have tried not to brood on it, but a meeting last week gave me another possible explanation.

I was reading to a new blind friend Sid. He told me that his blindness was due to macular degeneration. I learned something new.

He has an associated condition, apparently experienced by a small proportion of macular patients, Charles Bonnet syndrome. He sees people and buildings that are not there, and geometrical shapes. The people are usually wearing Victorian dress, often mourning garments. The buildings are not famous ones, sometimes just the skeletons or scaffolds.

His background is electronics, he worked on the first independent television broadcasts in the UK. Using his knowledge of how television images are formed, he has trained his brain to fill in the gaps in his vision, enabling him to see more, and he can enjoy some television programmes again.

In his own words "As a young man I was interested in the experiments of Professor Theodor Erisman, using goggles with mirrors, using alien scenes to show how the brain adapts and reconstructs what it sees. It occurred to me that I could instruct my visual cortex to emulate digital TV circuitry, using elements of my sight microseconds before a gap in my sight. I now rarely have Bonnet images, but I "see" complete scenes."

I was expecting to see Spock that day, and I am wondering if something in my brain reacted to that expectation? Obviously I did not knowingly "instruct" my brain to conjure up this picture, and there was clearly some unusual, but not necessarily worrying, activity going on in my head.

Next time I meet Sid I am going to quiz him, how does he instruct his visual cortex? The possibilities are fascinating. But what about you, does your brain play tricks with you, have you had anything like this happen?

A Moodscope member.

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