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Science & Technology

Phantom eye patients 'see' with missing eye

By T.K. Randall
June 9, 2015 · Comment icon 7 comments

Some patients have reported strange visions in their missing eye. Image Credit: sxc.hu
People who have lost an eye to illness sometimes report strange visual sensations and phantom images.
Amputees have been sometimes known to feel sensations where an arm or leg used to be, a phenomenon known as 'phantom limb', but there exists another far more peculiar affliction that leaves patients with only one eye seeing visions in the eye that's no longer there.

Scientists at the University of Liverpool recently conducted the largest known study of Phantom Eye Syndrome (PES) in which they surveyed 239 patients who had lost one of their eyes to cancer.

The results suggested that a total of 60% of those queried had experienced symptoms ranging from pain and unexplained visual sensations to actual hallucinations observed by the missing eye.
These visions sometimes even included images of people standing in the patient's field of view.

"We can now tell whether certain kinds of patients are more likely to have phantom symptoms," said psychologist Laura Hope-Stone. "PES is more common in younger patients, and having pain in the non-existent eye is more likely in patients who are anxious and depressed."

The exact cause of these peculiar symptoms however continues to remain a mystery.

Source: Discover Magazine | Comments (7)




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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Kiltedmusician 9 years ago
My wife used to have panic attacks that would petrify her and she would grab my hand and freeze up. She kept claiming that it felt like something was "over there" or wherever. She couldn't see whatever it was but she could feel it. I thought at first that she was being attacked by spirits but then eventually decided she must have some kind of chemical imbalance or something. She asked me to pray so I did, mostly under my breath asking God to heal her because I thought it was all in her mind. After I prayed I closed my eyes and rested my head on the pillow while I held her. As soon as my head h... [More]
Comment icon #2 Posted by Nnicolette 9 years ago
My wife used to have panic attacks that would petrify her and she would grab my hand and freeze up. She kept claiming that it felt like something was "over there" or wherever. She couldn't see whatever it was but she could feel it. I thought at first that she was being attacked by spirits but then eventually decided she must have some kind of chemical imbalance or something. She asked me to pray so I did, mostly under my breath asking God to heal her because I thought it was all in her mind. After I prayed I closed my eyes and rested my head on the pillow while I held her. As soon as my head h... [More]
Comment icon #3 Posted by Zalmoxis 9 years ago
Your brain remembers stuff so I'm guessing that the ghosts that the missing eye is seeing is nothing more than replaying from memory. Much like LSD users get flashbacks or Vietnam vets get PTSD and horrible events replay in their heads.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Ell 9 years ago
My late mother was quite deaf. When she went to bed, she used to hear a man sing. But there was no man. I seem to recall that we learned that other deaf people had similar experiences, and that it was part of the brain concocting its own story because it wasn't used any more and was idling. So such a part of the brain has an awareness and produces its own sensations as a form of maintenance. Perchance dreams serve this purpose partly as well?
Comment icon #5 Posted by Ozfactor 9 years ago
When they are 'seeing' something without an eye , wouldn't it be the brain still trying to process the information , just because the camera has gone , the processing unit is still there
Comment icon #6 Posted by HollandSmith 9 years ago
I think it's part of getting used to "it". I mean it's like when you have your tooth removed, how many times in a day do you run your tongue across it? After days or weeks, your tongue stops wondering across it because you have already gotten used to it. I think it's the same. When someone loses an eye, only the organ has been damaged, not the things it saw before. So it keeps on replaying memories and images until you get used to it.
Comment icon #7 Posted by blueandi 9 years ago
I am a total anosmic, having lost my sense of smell some 20 years ago. Sometimes however, I 'remember' a smell, and it can stay with me for days. Phantom smells are commonly reported by anosmia sufferers. It's as if without sensory input from the affected organ the brain fills in the gaps, as it were, with recalled information. I believe this may be what is happening here.


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