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Chuck Bonnet and the Hallucinations

Article #259 • Written by Alan Bellows

In the year 1760, a Swiss naturalist named Charles Bonnet became concerned when his grandfather Charles Lullin began to experience a parade of "amusing and magical visions." The eighty-nine-year-old Lullin was being visited by visions of people, birds, carriages, and buildings, all of which were invisible to everyone but him. Apparently these mysterious objects materialized spontaneously among the few bits of the world he was still able to perceive through his cataracts.

Bonnet's grandfather did not demonstrate any other signs of marble loss, in fact he seemed quite sane aside from the vivid hallucinations. Moreover, the elderly man was keenly aware that the strange sights were all in his mind. Bonnet cataloged his grandfather's curious circumstances, and over time the condition he described came to be known as Charles Bonnet Syndrome, or CBS. Numerous similar cases have been recorded in the decades since, and though it has long been regarded as a rare disease, recent evidence suggests that it is much more widespread than previously believed.

For those stricken with Charles Bonnet Syndrome, the world is occasionally adorned with vivid yet unreal images. Some see surfaces covered in non-existent patterns such as brickwork or tiles, while others see phantom objects in astonishing detail, including people, animals, buildings, or whatever else their minds may conjure. These images linger for as little as several seconds or for as much as several hours, appearing and vanishing abruptly. They may consist of commonplace items such as bottles or hats, or brain-bending nonsense such as dancing children with giant flowers for heads.

Most of those afflicted with Charles Bonnet Syndrome are people in the early stages of sight loss, and the hallucinations usually begin while their vision is still present but slowly diminishing. The most common culprit is macular degeneration, a disease where certain light-sensing cells in the retina malfunction and cause a slowly worsening blind spot in the center of one's vision. Other eye diseases such as glaucoma and cataracts can cause the symptoms as well, and in a few rare cases it has been diagnosed in people without any detectable vision problems whatsoever. The likelihood of Bonnet visions also seems to increase in people who have limited social interaction, such as people who live alone.

Even people with damaged sight are often startled by the clarity of these hallucinations. The condition does not cause a series of vague, floating images; the visions are highly detailed, and quite often they will conform to their surroundings. A nonexistent man might sit down and relax in a real-life recliner, or a convoy of poached eggs may drape themselves on a legitimate mantelpiece. Sometimes a significant segment of reality is altered-- such as staircase which becomes a steep mountain slope or a room which morphs in size and shape-- making the world difficult to navigate. Real objects can even vanish for periods of time, leaving little or no evidence of their prior presence.

How a Bonnet vision might appear to someone with glaucoma
How a Bonnet vision might appear to someone with glaucoma

A significant percentage of patients also describe floating, disembodied faces that squirm into their field of vision at random times. These often have wide, unblinking eyes; prominent teeth; and features reminiscent of a stone gargoyle.

Images of people are a common occurrence, though familiar faces are seldom seen. Most of the apparitions are strangers, although there are many reports of grieving people seeing their deceased loved ones during such hallucination episodes. These phantom people normally wear pleasant expressions on their faces as they loiter in eerie silence, and they make frequent eye contact with the viewer. Curiously, a great number of these imaginary characters are described as wearing hats, sometimes along with elaborate costumes.

Although these strikingly realistic images are usually non-threatening, they cannot be easily banished. Often variations of the same images appear repeatedly, but the items are seldom anything with any particular emotional meaning. In fact, they are frequently mundane items such as trucks or trees, though there are reports of dramatic scenes involving such things as funeral processions and dragons. The subjects of these visions are sometimes life-sized, but it is not uncommon for the hallucinations to appear in miniature, an effect called "lilliput hallucinations," named after the small Lilliputian people from Gulliver's Travels. Less frequently, visions will appear larger-than-life.

Although a Charles-Bonneter realizes at a rational level that the hallucinations are manufactured by the mind, it is nonetheless troubling to wake up to a room full of strangers, or to see vivid faces staring out of the shrubbery. It can also be disconcerting when visions of ordinary objects appear in ordinary places-- such as a bottle on a table or a truck on the street-- making fiction more difficult to separate from reality. In one case, a woman pointed out to her maid how cruel it was for her neighbor to leave the cows at pasture in the bitter winter cold, and she was embarrassed to learn that her maid could see no cows.

Some CBS visions are so outlandish that the viewers describe a moment of astonishment as they bid a premature farewell to their sanity. One woman was visited by several tiny chimney sweeps in stovepipe hats that paraded around her home, and another man spoke of a gaggle of monkeys in blue coats and red hats frolicking in his front yard day after day. Given the basic human tendency to trust one's senses, these hallucinations can stir up lively struggles between emotion and reason. In an ironic demonstration of their intact rationality, many people afflicted with CBS choose not to report these strange visions for fear of having their sanity cast in doubt. In contrast, people with psychosis tend to immerse themselves in elaborate fictions to explain their hallucinations, and seldom question their own mental health.

The construction of the human eye
The construction of the human eye

The exact cause of Charles Bonnet Syndrome is not presently known, but the popular theory suggests that the brain is merely attempting to compensate for a shortage of visual stimuli. Consider that each human eye normally receives data at a rate of about 8.75 megabits per second, a bandwidth which is significantly greater than most high-speed Internet connections. The visual cortex is the most massive system in the human brain, and it is packed with pathways which manipulate the rush of visual data before handing it over to the conscious mind. When disease begins to kink this firehose of information, a legion of neurons are left standing idle.

It is worth noting that the human brain already has significant talent in dealing with partial blindness. Every human eye has a blind spot where the optic nerve passes through the retina, and the visual cortex automatically fills in these blind spots by extrapolating what should be there based on the surrounding detail. Since a person's two blind spots do not overlap, the brain can also cross-reference the eye data when both eyes are active. In gradual-onset blindness, it is possible that these brain pathways attempt to fill in the new obscured areas. Since the eyes are sending reduced amounts of data with a greater frequency of errors, the visual cortex may produce more and more outlandish guesses.

You can indirectly perceive your own blind spot by using the image below. Simply sit close to your screen with your right eye covered, and focus on the word "Interesting." Maintain that focus while slowly moving away from the screen, and at a particular distance the logo will disappear although the blue lines and the word "Damn" will still be visible. If you change your gaze, the logo will no longer be in the blind spot, and it will reappear.

Some have suggested that Bonnet visions are the product of the same mechanisms that generate dreams. Clearly the mind is starved of visual input during sleeping periods, so it stands to reason that both dreams and CBS hallucinations may be the result of the same thing: the visual cortex becomes bored due to lack of stimulation, and gratifies itself using stored imagery. This notion is further supported by sensory deprivation experiments, where subjects experience hallucinations when placed in complete darkness for long periods of time. But the explanation fits the problem imperfectly, because dreams include sound and sensations, whereas Bonnet-visions are confined to sight.

In cases where patients see gargoyle-like floating faces, it is likely that the lateral occipital region of the brain is contributing. That chunk of the visual cortex participates in plucking human faces out the river of incoming visual data, and it is the same wad of neurons that is tickled by any pattern that vaguely resembles a face, such as the front of a car. When this region becomes starved for input, it is quite possible that its lowers its standards considerably, and reveals faces that do not exist.

Formal studies have found that Charles Bonnet Syndrome has a higher rate of occurrence in those with higher education and those with creative leanings, a finding which suggests that the concept-association skills inherent in creativity and intelligence may be playing a role. The whole condition is also reminiscent of phantom limb syndrome, where people with missing limbs experience sensations as though the body parts are still present.

Of course there are some who believe that these bizarre Charles Bonnet visions have nothing to do with attention-starved brain cells, but rather they are real images from some alternate reality that is parallel to our own. The theory suggests that people cannot normally perceive these parallel realities because they are drowning in a flood of visual data from our own world. It is implied-- though not stated outright-- that these parallel realities must be strange places where people sometimes have flowers instead of heads, and preposterous guesses instead of evidence.

Visualizing the visual cortex
Visualizing the visual cortex

One of the most thorough studies of the phenomenon was undertaken at the University Hospital in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, where 505 visually handicapped patients were involved. Of those, it was found that sixty-three had experienced complex visual hallucinations in the four-week period before screening. Psychiatric examination of the patients revealed no other disorders which might cause such side effects. This and other studies suggest that as many as 15% of people with vision loss experience Charles Bonnet Syndrome hallucinations to some degree. It is even rumored that Charles Bonnet himself followed in his grandfather's footsteps, witnessing his own set of inexplicable visions when his eyes began to fail him later in life.

Given the high rate of Bonnet-visions among patients in these studies, it seems that it is not so rare as it was once thought. The small number of reported cases is probably due to the sufferers' universal reluctance to describe their experiences; most of those afflicted with CBS will not speak of the hallucinations at all unless they are asked directly. One of the most effective treatments is to simply inform the patient that these visions are not a reflection on their mental well-being. This may not prevent future hallucinations, but in many cases it will greatly reduce the related anxiety.

Some Charles-Bonneters are able to banish their phantoms by changing the environment in some way-- such as turning the lights on or off-- though most of the time a patient is subject to their visions' whims. Others have resorted to befriending the apparitions, making idle one-sided conversation as the imaginary guests stare quietly. Fortunately the condition is almost always temporary, and in most cases the visiting visions fade away forever after twelve to eighteen months.

Human perception is patently imperfect, so even a normal brain must fabricate a fair amount of data to provide a complete sense of our surroundings. We humans are lucky that we have these fancy brains to chew up the fibrous chunks of reality and regurgitate it into a nice, mushy paste which our conscious minds can digest. But whenever one of us notices something that doesn't exist, or fails to notice something that does exist, our personal version of the world is nudged a little bit further from reality. It makes one wonder how much of reality we all have in common, and how much is all in our minds

Article written by Alan Bellows, published on 06 March 2007. Alan is the founder/designer/head writer/managing editor of Damn Interesting.

Article design and artwork by Alan Bellows. Suggested by Kristen H..
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122 Comments
Brandie
Posted 06 March 2007 at 03:26 pm

hah - first!

Damn Interesting, indeed! Great article - I'd never heard of anything like this before. Since macular degeneration and its polar opposite, retinitus pigmentosa (sp?) run in the family, I'll have to keep an eye out for stuff like that (no pun intended)!


Credhawk
Posted 06 March 2007 at 03:41 pm

This is one of the most interesting DIs I've seen. I guess it has even more interest because some, maybe many, of us readers may experience this later in our life. Thanks for another very interesing article!


z
Posted 06 March 2007 at 04:07 pm

The workings of the mind are always fascinating to read about.

Now, talking about the visual cortex getting bored and seeing faces... I've actually noticed this kind of behavior when I look at something with seemingly random shapes for a while, say a carpet or something, and my eyes often start picking up faces from the shapes.


lfsmith
Posted 06 March 2007 at 04:27 pm

Very nice article. This sentence (5th paragraph) needs a little work in two places though:

Sometimes a significant segment of reality is altered– such as staircase which becomes a steep mountain slope or a room which morphs in size and shape– making the the world difficult to navigate.


SweetViolet
Posted 06 March 2007 at 04:31 pm

If looking at a wall, particularly a roughly plastered wall in dim light, I tend to see large "curlicue" designs appear on the wall, usually in a lavender hue. That bored visual cortex at work?


Killy
Posted 06 March 2007 at 04:35 pm

My great grandmother's sister had macular degeneration, and she would tell my mother and I how she would see water in random places. For example she would see waterfalls coming off of buildings, or a stream instead of a street. She knew that it was just her mind trying to fill in the blanks, although we had not heard of CBS before. Good article!


davidw987
Posted 06 March 2007 at 04:40 pm

" ... the popular theory suggests that the brain is merely attempting to compensate for a shortage of visual stimuli. "

I was already thinking this might be the case before I got to this line in the article. I know that people experiencing total darkness will often "see" what they know to be there. People exploring caves can experience true total darkness (when you turn off your light). There are zero photons available to stimulate the retina. Yet, if you wave your hand around in front of your face, you think you can see it. The brain knows it must be there and resolves the paradox of not seeing it by interpolating the expected image.


rev.felix
Posted 06 March 2007 at 04:55 pm

The perception of alternate realitys may be a bit far fetched, but it isn't impossible. Besides, which is cooler, hallucinating, or seeing a parallel dimension?


another viewpoint
Posted 06 March 2007 at 05:04 pm

"...a convoy of poached eggs may drape themselves on a legitimate mantelpiece."

Big Ben this here's Rubber Duck. Looks like we got us a convoy...of poached eggs!

Well done and once again, damn interesting!

I once thought I saw pink elephants on the ER wall, but chalked that up to the shot of morphine I got to calm me down from my kidney stone experience. NOT fun!

And now that we know where CBS comes from, anyone want to tackle ABC and NBC ?


Tink
Posted 06 March 2007 at 05:13 pm

Fascinating! Absolutly fascinating, Alan! This is so much more DI! than bombs and war killing machines. Thank you,thank you!


Asshe
Posted 06 March 2007 at 05:32 pm

DI article! I wonder, does this all take place in the same part of the brain that causes some skitzophrenics to see people that aren't there?

Also, that picture with the face floating in th flowers gave me the heeby-jeebys.


Princess Sunshine
Posted 06 March 2007 at 05:36 pm

"that these parallel realities must be strange places where people sometimes have flowers instead of heads, and preposterous guesses instead of evidence."

lol

very, very interesting! Now I have yet another reason to want to live to be old!


Sabyrne
Posted 06 March 2007 at 06:50 pm

This article almost scared me... reality has to be one of the most interesting places I've ever been.


Sabyrne
Posted 06 March 2007 at 06:51 pm

Especially with Pink Floyd (Welcome to the Machine) playing in the background...


Didoka
Posted 06 March 2007 at 07:34 pm

That was good. Longer than usual. Lol. Anyway. Didn't you say that Bonneters don't hear sound? Because when you were speaking of dreams, you said that in dreams we had sound and feel too, implying that there was no such sound in hallucinations. If that is true, then how do people befriend their hallucinations and have conversations with them? I'm sure it's not sign language. lol


ieatlettuce
Posted 06 March 2007 at 08:29 pm

Man... I wish I had a maid.


ExperimentNo6
Posted 06 March 2007 at 09:09 pm

Ive just spent half an hour on that blind spot test. That has got to be the most entertaining pair of words and triangle ever.


JPF
Posted 06 March 2007 at 09:35 pm

The blind-spot test is really cool! The whole article is very (make that damm) interesting.


JoJo
Posted 06 March 2007 at 09:47 pm

For almost 2 years I kept seeing what looked like a very tiny spider descending from the ceiling in midair. When I started to see it while I was driving , I had my vision checked and found out what I was experiencing was called a "floater". That was 20 years ago. I now have several and can control them. Hopefully they will never get big enough to impair my vision. They are caused by the changing in the shape of the gel of the eye due to age. They are usually only visible in very bright light. Oh the joys of getting older!


frenchsnake
Posted 06 March 2007 at 09:50 pm

fascinating... and somewhat terrifying.


Floj
Posted 06 March 2007 at 09:51 pm

Wow, it's amazing that our brains are capable of fabricating a clear image. I know someone who had Macular Degeneration. She once mentioned seeing weird things like sudden flashes of light.

Perhaps, this has something to do with the times when you look for something that's sitting right in front of you and can't find it. That's truly Damn Interesting. Double scoop the whip cream for this slice of pie.


Lisette
Posted 06 March 2007 at 11:52 pm

Bonnet's grandfather did not demonstrate any other signs of marble loss, in fact he seemed quite sane aside from the vivid hallucinations.

hahaha marble loss!!! Great turn of phrase! I also loved the blind spot test. DI Article


Burning
Posted 07 March 2007 at 12:22 am

This is definitely one of my top ten DI articles on this site. I was a bit distracted in the second part of the article, though. After doing that experiment with the DI logo, I kept muttering to myself, "My eyes have blinds spots! My eyes have blind spots! My eyes have blind spots!" I hadn't the vaguest idea that I had a blind spots!

What a creepy idea, seeing things that aren't really there. It's no wonder people keep mum about it. Why would want to admit to seeing hallucinations?


asbestos
Posted 07 March 2007 at 01:33 am

OK so the eggs on the mantle are not real. could someone tell me about the group of tiny craftmatic adjustable beds that keep showing up eating fast food?


Steva
Posted 07 March 2007 at 03:08 am

Wow. That face is terrifying. I dread to ever see one of those.


errna
Posted 07 March 2007 at 03:48 am

A few months back I read (broken leg=plenty of time) pretty much every article on this site.
This one is one of the best... That picture of a face staring from out of a bed of red flowers is D spooky though.
Also (sorry, guys), just above the pic there's a tiny little mistake: "making the the world difficult to navigate"


Dave Group
Posted 07 March 2007 at 06:29 am

I had a Baader-Meinhof moment when I read this article just after pollinating my girlfriend's head, but the leprechaun in the La-Z-Boy told me it was just a coincidence.


haQpod
Posted 07 March 2007 at 07:36 am

Wow very interesting. Just a minor mistake i noticed: "In an ironic demonstration of their intact rationality, many people afflicted with with CBS choose not to report these strange visions for fear of having their sanity cast in doubt." Double "with" :)


wargammer
Posted 07 March 2007 at 07:37 am

Paging Dr House.

Paging Dr Howard, Dr Fine, Dr Howard


madjack
Posted 07 March 2007 at 08:36 am

Ever since those magic eye posters came out I try to see things in everyday patterns(i.e. piles of leaves, wallpaper, etc.). Our brains are damn interesting for sure, this made me think of an email i received awhile ago, so i looked it up, here it is:

Olny srmat poelpe can raed tihs.
cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was
rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch
at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a
wrod are, the
olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit
pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a
porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid de os not raed ervey lteter by
istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot
slpeling was ipmorantt!


davidw987
Posted 07 March 2007 at 09:16 am

Nice post, Madjack!

I contend that the difference between the human brain and our most advanced computers is our ability to perform pattern recognition, regardless of the context.


vespurrs
Posted 07 March 2007 at 11:27 am

Okay, first post for me after lurking for a while now, and I just want to say - 'AUGH!!! Appearing and disappearing period at the end of the article! I must be losing my mind!' - or something along those lines.

Another DI article, Alan!


Coherent
Posted 07 March 2007 at 11:46 am

I wouldn't categorize dreams as the product of a bored cortex. I'm pretty sure that dreams are part of a neurological refreshment process by which some sort of beneficial effect is achieved for the brain. They have an evolutionary or neuromechanical purpose, for sure, we just don't know what it is yet.


Chris Johnson
Posted 07 March 2007 at 12:00 pm

Also my first post after lurking for a long time. Damn Interesting, but I was most taken aback by that first picture. In all the times I visited the House of Prayer, I never saw a guy in a sombrero hanging around the meeting room!

(See http://www.ehouseofprayer.org for a picture of the room without the macular degeneration or the guy in a sombrero.)


Ironclaw
Posted 07 March 2007 at 12:55 pm

So maybe Harvey isn't real after all?


Ironclaw
Posted 07 March 2007 at 01:03 pm

davidw987 said: "Nice post, Madjack!

I contend that the difference between the human brain and our most advanced computers is our ability to perform pattern recognition, regardless of the context."

Fuzzy Logic?


Techno-Kid
Posted 07 March 2007 at 01:03 pm

scrambled letter meme

This is cute but untrue. For anyone more interested about the concept behind why this particular letter jumble works:

http://www.mrc-cbu.cam.ac.uk/~mattd/Cmabrigde/

As for seeing crazy ass things when your eyes go bad, I can only hope that I am so lucky in my old age. DI for sure!


drewd
Posted 07 March 2007 at 01:19 pm

My grandmother suffered from this before she lost her vision due to macular degeneration. At first she would see a little girl, then, as time went on, she would see more and more people. It usually happened in the evening, when the light started to get low. She knew that they weren't real - when she first started seeing them, she would ask if we could see them. After we talked to her doctor, we came up with the same conclusion that the article suggests - that, as her vision declined, her brain was doing its best to interpret what little she could see. I even gave her doctor a few pages on Bonnet Syndrome, something that he'd not heard of before. He never diagnosed the problem, probably because it wasn't distressing her at all. Eventually, as the macular degeneration progressed, she stopped seeing her people.

Sometimes it was a little funny - she'd mention that she saw one of her people and my wife would say something like, "Do you think that they're real?" My grandmother would look at her like she thought that my wife had a screw loose. Still, I think that, deep down, they were actually kind of comforting to her.


shnooky
Posted 07 March 2007 at 01:21 pm

I saw Chuck Bonnet And The Hallucinations open for Big Brother And The Holding Company at Winterland Gardens in San Francisco in 1967. I think.......


madjack
Posted 07 March 2007 at 01:21 pm

great Techno-kid

I never researched the email

Im hapy to know the truth behind it


lip_ring
Posted 07 March 2007 at 02:34 pm

holy carp, that's interesting!

couldn't resist. sorry.


GigsTaggart
Posted 07 March 2007 at 03:10 pm

vespurrs said: "Appearing and disappearing period at the end of the article!

What are you talking about? The period isn't flashing! Must be in your head.


le sacre
Posted 07 March 2007 at 03:38 pm

arrestingly interesting, and startlingly well-written. kudos!


TH
Posted 07 March 2007 at 04:11 pm

"Some CBS visions are so outlandish that the viewers describe a moment of astonishment as they bid a premature farewell to their sanity."

Doesn't this happen with every television network? ...

DI! (Long time listener, first time caller!)


HiEv
Posted 07 March 2007 at 04:42 pm

Darn good article. Thanks for posting it.

It makes one wonder how much of our mythology is based on people having hallucinations like these before we had scientific explanations for them. For example, the comment that some of the faces look like the faces of gargoyles make me wonder if that is part of the origin of the mythology of gargoyles. People in earlier times might interpret these hallucinations as visions or attacks by the devil or other such things. Even today, people are willing to make bizarre and improbable leaps of logic, such as "visions from other dimensions," so I can only wonder about all of the other naïve explanations people in the past would have invented to explain these things to themselves.


sh0cktopus
Posted 07 March 2007 at 05:52 pm

When I first took LSD, popular culture led me to expect these type of hallucinations. I definitely experienced some interesting visual effects over the years, but never armies of gnomes or disembodied faces. Although, I did have a friend who took a combination of mescaline, psilocybin and THC who reported similar effects (seeing the city below engulfed by lava, having a conversation with his reflection in the mirror, etc.) If you wanted to experience this sensation, peyote might do the trick. But you might not be so convinced that your visions weren't real. Anyways, best article for a long time, Alan. You're really stepping up your game.


TRAWLERGUY2002
Posted 07 March 2007 at 06:04 pm

Incredible! My father in law suffered from this. Even tho he was sharp as a tack, we wondered if he was losing it. He was going blind from macular degeneration. and he often spoke of 'the visitors', a tall man w/ a kid. They sometimes interupted his sleep by sitting on his feet while he was in bed. He also reported watching old westerns in a picture frame in his living room. I wish I would have found this info before he died. Thank you Alan, this article was danged intriguing.


blenderhead
Posted 07 March 2007 at 07:38 pm

sh0cktopus said: "When I first took LSD, popular culture led me to expect these type of hallucinations. I definitely experienced some interesting visual effects over the years, but never armies of gnomes or disembodied faces. Although, I did have a friend who took a combination of mescaline, psilocybin and THC who reported similar effects (seeing the city below engulfed by lava, having a conversation with his reflection in the mirror, etc.) If you wanted to experience this sensation, peyote might do the trick. But you might not be so convinced that your visions weren't real. Anyways, best article for a long time, Alan. You're really stepping up your game."

Acid plus about four hundred mils of DXM will also produce very realistic waking dreams. Zicam is DXM over the counter.

I did this once, and it ceased being recreational when I began feeling threatened by some of the things I saw. Definitely only for psychonauts.

I am of the opinion that things seen exist, if not in the "real" world. I believe that the things you see whilst using powerful psychoactive drugs, whilst dreaming, and whilst "insane" exist, but most people can not perceive them. However, I also read too much Lovecraft.

Damned interesting.


dramafreak006
Posted 07 March 2007 at 11:13 pm

Intrestingly enough if you read Heinlen as well as Lovecraft you would come across the opinion that if you believe in something enough, such as an author's fictional world, it becomes it's own dimension. If you're wondering that bit of philosophy comes from "The Cat who Walked Through Walls" by Robet Heinlen, A DI book! :-).


PhilD
Posted 08 March 2007 at 03:45 am

How easy is it to read Madjack's post for native english speakers? I'm French, and although I managed to read it, it was more like a word by word decyphering thant actual reading - I had to look at each word, and its correct spelling somehow appeared to me without consciously trying to reorder the letters, but I wouldn't call this "reading".


misanthrope
Posted 08 March 2007 at 04:33 am

PhilD said: "How easy is it to read Madjack's post for native english speakers? I'm French, and although I managed to read it, it was more like a word by word decyphering thant actual reading - I had to look at each word, and its correct spelling somehow appeared to me without consciously trying to reorder the letters, but I wouldn't call this "reading"."

It seems to vary from person to person - a couple of my friends struggled with it, but most had no problems at all once they got going. The ones who did struggle aren't any worse at reading than the others. I think it also has to do with how you read it too. If I skim read it, it barely registers that it's different at all but if I try to read it at a slower pace, it starts to get difficult - I'd guess that having less time to think about each word when skim reading forces you to just go with your first instinct, which would normally be right because of the help you get from context.


JAB
Posted 08 March 2007 at 08:07 am

If I could change the subject for just a minute. Does everyone remember the Grand Canyon Skyway article?
http://www.damninteresting.com/index.php?s=grand+canyon

MSNBC just did an article on it.
Canyon skywalk may bring riches, widen divide

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17514523/

Sorry for the post on here, but there are no forums and I thought some people might find it Di as a follow up.


Techno-Kid
Posted 08 March 2007 at 08:09 am

PhilD said: "How easy is it to read Madjack's post for native english speakers? I'm French, and although I managed to read it, it was more like a word by word decyphering thant actual reading - I had to look at each word, and its correct spelling somehow appeared to me without consciously trying to reorder the letters, but I wouldn't call this "reading"."

Try this:

Sleon une édtue de l'Uvinertisé de Cmabrigde, l'odrre des ltteers dnas un mtos n'a pas d'ipmrotncae, la suele coshe ipmrotnate est que la pmeirère et la drenèire soit à la bnnoe pclae. Le rsete peut êrte dnas un dsérorde ttoal et vuos puoevz tujoruos lrie snas porlblème. C'est prace que le creaveu hmauin ne lit pas chuaqe ltetre elle-mmêe, mias le mot cmome un tuot.

I have no idea what this says since I don't speak French and obviously cannot babelfish it. I got it from the link I posted above.


StUdio Victoras
Posted 08 March 2007 at 09:04 am

Cheers all,

i've experienced CBS, my self diagnosis, and the several times these hallucinations overcame me...
i had intuited the stress of dehydration ...in concert with one's active imagination & creative mind,
allow this "FREE Association" to run its course.

I have ingested a liter of water in an attempt to stop the visuals...and once found it desirable to take half a 'meclizine HCL 25mg' tab to quell that unwanted hallucinary onslaught...

i have mecilizine available for severe bouts of Vertigo,
but, it seems the modest ammount of H2O seems the Key antidote.

take it for what its worth,
perhaps a med student might grab this bataon and prove/improve the information


Stead311
Posted 08 March 2007 at 11:49 am

I will be totally honest, as I usually am... but the last few articles have been lacking somewhat in "interestingness."

This article totally changed all that. Great work Alan, as always. Very intersting and very well written. I can not imagine the fear/feeling of helplessness with such a syndrom. It is very much like our society to instantly label a person as having mental health issues and casting them aside out of the publics eye. If more people were made aware then maybe there would be a little more understanding for things like this. Thanks for the post!


Phalanx
Posted 08 March 2007 at 12:37 pm

I was curious about this:

"Consider that each human eye normally receives data at a rate of about 8.75 megabits per second, a bandwidth which is significantly greater than most high-speed Internet connections."

Do you have a source for this? I didn't see anything about it in the Further Reading links and I'm wondering how they measure that sort of thing.


Silverhill
Posted 08 March 2007 at 04:03 pm

Techno-Kid said: "Try this:


Sleon une édtue de l'Uvinertisé de Cmabrigde, l'odrre des ltteers dnas un mtos n'a pas d'ipmrotncae, la suele coshe ipmrotnate est que la pmeirère et la drenèire soit à la bnnoe pclae. Le rsete peut êrte dnas un dsérorde ttoal et vuos puoevz tujoruos lrie snas porlblème. C'est prace que le creaveu hmauin ne lit pas chuaqe ltetre elle-mmêe, mias le mot cmome un tuot.

I have no idea what this says since I don't speak French and obviously cannot babelfish it. I got it from the link I posted above."

Here it is, untangled (and corrected; three words had extra letters):

Selon une étude de l'Université de Cambridge, l'ordre des lettres dans un mot n'a pas d'importance, la seule chose importante est que la première et la dernière soit à la bonne place. Le reste peut être dans un désordre total et vous pouvez toujours lire sans problème. C'est parce que le cerveau humain ne lit pas chaque lettre elle-même, mais le mot comme un tout.

Rendered more or less literally into English, it's:

According to a study from the University of Cambridge, the order of the letters in a word has no importance; the only important thing is that the first and the last be at the proper place. The rest can be in a total disorder and you can always read without problem. This is because the human brain does not read each letter by itself, but the word as a whole.


Sir Osis Of Liver
Posted 08 March 2007 at 04:11 pm

dramafreak006 said: "Intrestingly enough if you read Heinlen as well as Lovecraft you would come across the opinion that if you believe in something enough, such as an author's fictional world, it becomes it's own dimension. If you're wondering that bit of philosophy comes from "The Cat who Walked Through Walls" by Robet Heinlen, A DI book! :-)."

For the sake of accuracy, Heinlein covered this in The Number Of The Beast in 1980. He used the premise again in The Cat (1985).
(from another big Heinlein fan)


ifeelya
Posted 08 March 2007 at 05:42 pm

Sir Osis Of Liver said: "For the sake of accuracy, Heinlein covered this in The Number Of The Beast in 1980. He used the premise again in The Cat (1985).

(from another big Heinlein fan)"

He might have hinted at it even earlier in the old sci-fi mag stories. And I think there was a cat in one of the earlier teens-in-space books, wasn't there? Can't quite recall. I guess if you asked any of the WOW gamers, they'd agree you can seriously get into an alternate dimension and hang out.

I could not get the visual illusion to work for me. I do remember being given prozac years ago. I would be off at work minding my business, only to stop suddenly to look at the visual hallucination that was suddenly unfolding in front of me - very like this article's description, in that it always seemed to be in my lower right field of vision. But the scene would always be complete within itself and very highly detailed - nothing incongrous, I mean, short of seeing stuff that wasn't there. It FELT more like looking at something real that was very far away, than looking at some unreal that was generated between my ears, anyway. I abandoned that little experiment very, very quickly! Fascinating, but scary.

Even though this was obviously drug-induced, I think that the issue might be less connected with macular degeneration itself that with what actually CAUSES the macular degeneration in the first place. There is some cutting-edge work being done this now associated with a certain hormone I've been studying for some time now. It's only an idea, but this would explain a lot, as the hormone is produced (or not) in the hypothalamus and can have quite a lot of impact on brain function and visual perception. DI stuff - expect to hear much more about it over the next few years. Looks like everybody and their brother is filing patents on designer versions.


Benchkey
Posted 08 March 2007 at 06:18 pm

My mum had this problem. At first I recorded her observations as I thought no one would believe me (or her). Eventually I found a similar article on this subject and her eye surgeon confirmed the disease. She often saw people in her bedroom. One in particular was an African warrior in a sort of loin cloth. He was squatting in the corner of her bedroom, about 3' above the floor, and holding a spear. Non talked, and some opened their mouths to display a cut tongue. Rarely, she saw angels, and clouds which seemed to move about the room. She didn't ever express fear of the people, just a humor over their presence. Brian


solitas
Posted 08 March 2007 at 10:02 pm

>> Some CBS visions are so outlandish that the viewers describe a moment of astonishment as they bid a premature farewell to their sanity.

"I recognize that those who didn't want the information out and tried to discredit the story are trying to make it about me, and I accept that." ~ D.Rather 15 Sep 2004


Creepy Dave
Posted 08 March 2007 at 10:35 pm

This is your brain.....this is your brain on CBS......any questions???


Illegal Immigrant
Posted 08 March 2007 at 11:00 pm

If this was first recorded in the 18th century, do you think that Lullen saw a guy in a sombraro?


Dave Group
Posted 09 March 2007 at 05:42 am

Congratulations, guys! The Coast-to-Coast AM website just linked to this article.


Techno-Kid
Posted 09 March 2007 at 07:51 am

Silverhill said: "Here it is, untangled (and corrected; three words had extra letters):

Thanks for the translation!

As a possibly on-topic update, yesterday I sneezed so hard I saw stars flying around my vision.


Radiatidon
Posted 09 March 2007 at 08:52 am

Phalanx said: "I was curious about this:


"Consider that each human eye normally receives data at a rate of about 8.75 megabits per second, a bandwidth which is significantly greater than most high-speed Internet connections."

Do you have a source for this? I didn't see anything about it in the Further Reading links and I'm wondering how they measure that sort of thing."

The information was deduced when researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine experimented with the retina of guinea pig. Placing the tissue into a solution to keep it viable (living), they measured the electrical impulses it produced when exposed to various types of movies.

The retina is a complex mixture of various ganglion cells. There are around 15 different types of these cells. Each type is stimulated by a certain frequency of light (or speed of motion). These cells working in harmony create the motion we perceive as vision. When stimulated they produce an electrical current. This current is received and interpreted by the brain to produce our visual world.

You need to understand that the retina and optic nerve are actually outgrowths of the brain, and not independent structures. If you understand computerese, the retina is the receptor (input device), transmitting its data along the optic nerve (organic T-1 line) to be processed by our biological CPU (Central Processing Unit or computer).

During the research, they only measured the response of 7 types of ganglion. By measuring the “spikes” of electrical activity of each of the ganglion, (a spike is equal to a bit in a data stream) they estimated due to the average human eye containing about 1,000,000 ganglion cells, the human retina could transmit data at around 10 million bits per second.


Radiatidon
Posted 09 March 2007 at 09:29 am

As a side note: The USAF performed a series of tests on pilots to measure visual response time. In one experiment, various pictures of aircraft were flashed on a screen in a dark room at 1/220th of a second. The pilots were not only able to consistently see the afterimage but could identify the plane. This shows the eye’s ability to perceive enough data information at 1/220th in a single frame to correctly identify the picture. Some could even tell what markings (numbers or nationality) where on the aircraft. Now that’s a lot of information.

As anyone who has decrease a picture for viewing or sending on the Internet, the smaller you make the picture, the harder it is to discern detail in the photo.

Next the eye is one of the fastest healing parts of the body. Years ago I had a splinter of wood pierce my eye next to the retina. The doctor removed the offending wood, put some “salve” on, and wrapped my eyes with cotton and gauze. Sent me home and told me I could remove the bindings in a few days. Ever had a 24-hour toothache in your eye? “Blinded” for only three days until the damaged area healed, and the bandages were removed. My eyes were fully functional and no pain from the wound. Yet tissue damage in my hands can take weeks to fully heal.


tinpeach
Posted 09 March 2007 at 11:05 am

z said: "The workings of the mind are always fascinating to read about.

Now, talking about the visual cortex getting bored and seeing faces… I've actually noticed this kind of behavior when I look at something with seemingly random shapes for a while, say a carpet or something, and my eyes often start picking up faces from the shapes."

I'm not sure that this is related to CBS.
Anyone interested should read the Wiki article on pareidolia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareidolia


needles
Posted 09 March 2007 at 07:38 pm

Wow! Damn interesting. Up to 15% of people with vision loss. Great work, Alan.


z
Posted 09 March 2007 at 07:57 pm

tinpeach said: "I'm not sure that this is related to CBS.


Anyone interested should read the Wiki article on pareidolia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareidolia"

Yeah, I doubt it's related either, but something involving the same organs or just imagination at work. Or that pareidolia thing in the article.


J.M.
Posted 10 March 2007 at 01:58 pm

For the past ten or so years, I've actually had something like this happen to me, and it's always been a point of curiosity. Especially in the dark, but even during daylight conditions, if I stare blankly for a while I will get a small patch of colours, like a hole, in my vision. They resemble a cell-shaded version (crisper than my normal vision) of stained-glass.

Well, now I know! Cool. :-)


KiriBlack
Posted 11 March 2007 at 06:51 am

There was an absolutely wonderful article about Charles Bonnet Syndrome in Fortean Times a while back. I believe it was #184, but if you go to the website (forteantimes.com) and do a search for "Charles Bonnet," you will easily find the article there.

Our DI article was so well-written and thorough, however; I don't believe that FT really had too much anything extra or different to add, but it's still an excellent article.

It will be at: http://www.forteantimes.com/articles/184_eye-spirits3.shtml.


KiriBlack
Posted 11 March 2007 at 06:57 am

Hmmm...Sorry about that; my link above doesn't seem to work. Try this:

http://www.forteantimes.com/articles/184_eye-spirits3.shtml.

If that doesn't work, do go to the website and do a search for it. Very cool.


Plank
Posted 12 March 2007 at 12:10 am

Why was it not named "Charles Lullin Syndrome" seeing as he experienced it long before Charles Bonnet did. I suppose that would mean no CBS jokes.


Ginny
Posted 13 March 2007 at 03:38 am

I am a hypnotherapist and I've been treating a guy with Charles Bonnet syndrome (successfully of course :-)) interestingly his hallucinations were mainly of a road coming at him at about 60 - 80 mph complete with surrounding countryside, cows in fields etc. His occupation, before he fell ill with mycosis fungoides and failing vision due to pressure on his optic nerve was.... a lorry driver. Yet another example of the power of the brain to create an unreal situation in order to cope with unwelcome circumstances. A million thanks for this site!


RageIsTheNewBlack
Posted 18 March 2007 at 07:57 pm

z said: "Now, talking about the visual cortex getting bored and seeing faces… I've actually noticed this kind of behavior when I look at something with seemingly random shapes for a while, say a carpet or something, and my eyes often start picking up faces from the shapes."

I do that too.


mfell_umd
Posted 21 March 2007 at 02:29 pm

DI article...but seriously, can anyone think of a better name for a non-existent headlining prog rock band? "Ladies and gentlemen, Chuck Bonnet and the Hallucinations!"


Charlene
Posted 03 April 2007 at 07:05 pm

James Thurber describes his failing vision in just this way.


rosebug
Posted 23 April 2007 at 10:34 pm

wow. astonishing.

i grew progressively more and more shortsighted from age 7 to about age 12. By the time i was 12 i had glasses like coke bottle ends - though the left eye was much worse than the right. i had always been able to make pictures dance or move , i 'saw' fairies, or i could extrapolate from what was there to 'see' -alter what was there visually, even though i knew it wasnt real- though never anything as dramatic as what described here. faces might appear, or objects alter, a doorknocker with a face might yawn, or the sky swirl with clouds - ...hard to explain. - i always assumed thats was what people meant by 'imagining' them. i knew they werent real, i just didnt realise other people didnt actually 'see' imaginary things.

When i was thirty i went to have an eye test because i was having trouble judging distances (specifically trouble trying to 'catch' the washing line!) - Dr discovered that because the size of the images the glasses were showing each eye was different, the eyes werent always 'seeing' together - they would sometimes read one image, sometimes the other.

I had laser surgery - and while i dont have perfect vision, my eyes now have a more similar prescription. and - i cant make anything move anymore. it all stays the same. it dawned on me - at the age of thirty - and through the combination of the optometrists description of what had been happening - and at his raised eyebrows about the operation's effect on 'my imagination' -that seeing moving images was not normal.
i did however have a few mornings where i woke up as blind as i was pre-operation and then suddenly remembered i could see - only have to have my vision clear suddenly! - that doesnt happen anymore either.


20miles
Posted 04 July 2007 at 07:04 pm

RageIsTheNewBlack said: "I do that too."

Yeah me too the brain is amazing


SusanZ
Posted 05 July 2007 at 09:32 am

Fantastic article. I have a very good friend who is 52 years old and on May 5th, 2007 lost all her vision due to a Staph G infection..she is in complete darkness. Two weeks ago she started began having phantom vison which I must say was quite alarming for her. She said prior to that she wished she could even just see shaddow..something instead of the darkness...now she isn't so sure she wants to have this phantom vision. She mentioned it to her family Dr. and he didn't really say anything. The eyes specialist told her he had heard about it and that there is a name for it and that its an area for her to discuss with her family Dr. That was all he told her. She talked to the lady from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and she told her it was called Charles Bonnet Syndrome and that she had heard about it. I did a google search and came across this wonderful article. Having found information for her on the internet has been at least somewhat comforting as she was so afraid the infection had somehow returned and was attacking her brain. It only makes sense when you vision is taken from you so suddenly that your brain would want to tell you that you should be seeing something..if you can have phantom pain when you lose a limb why not have phantom vision when you are losing or have lost your sight? It only makes sense and from what I have read the last couple of days on the internet it really isn't all that uncommon. It is unfortunate that there are probably many people out there thinking they are losing their mind when they are suffering from Charles Bonnet Syndrome. Even sadder is their Drs aren't even there for them to give them the support they need or a better understanding of what they are going through.


Falco Peregrinus
Posted 25 July 2007 at 03:23 pm

Here's a random thought,
that ghostly face thing in the second picture kinda looks like Data from Star Trek: TNG, but photo shopped a bit.


panks
Posted 06 September 2007 at 03:40 am

The last lines "But whenever one of us notices something that doesn't exist, or fails to notice something that does exist, our personal version of the world is nudged a little bit further from reality. It makes one wonder how much of reality we all have in common, and how much is all in our minds", damn intresting man..... Fantastic article.
Scary thought, people with gorgoyle like faces staring at you in the middle of the night..


kendall
Posted 27 September 2007 at 08:53 pm

My mother has recently been experienceing this syndrome. It has been very scarry for her and she thinks she is going to die. My mother is 83 and lost most of her vision about 2 years ago from diabetes. This article and others like it have helped me understand what she is going through and will aid me in helping her get through this. Great article!


belyaun
Posted 29 September 2007 at 08:14 pm

Great now I've got this to worry about too, I thought I was just hallucinating a few times but damn....


dacoobob
Posted 27 November 2007 at 08:23 pm

J.M. said: "For the past ten or so years, I've actually had something like this happen to me, and it's always been a point of curiosity. Especially in the dark, but even during daylight conditions, if I stare blankly for a while I will get a small patch of colours, like a hole, in my vision. They resemble a cell-shaded version (crisper than my normal vision) of stained-glass.

Well, now I know! Cool. :-)"

Interesting. I get a phenomenon very similar to what you describe when I have a migraine. It's like a small "hole" or tear in my vision, full of scintillating colors. It's rather creepy and it scared the shit out of me the first time it happened (in high school). Usually it begins before the pain does, starting as a tiny pinpoint of colors and slowly growing over the course of about an hour. Usually it peaks (covering about a quarter of my vision field in an irregular blob) and starts to shrink as the pain is ramping up, and is gone by the time I'm really moaning. I also sometimes experience other migraine precursors like "glove" numbness in my hand or loss of the ability to read words and numbers (very scary). Fortunately for me I haven't had a migraine for several years now. I find the best way to induce one (for me anyway) is sleep deprivation. Stress also seems to be a factor.

The brain is a very weird place.


js305
Posted 01 January 2008 at 06:36 pm

dacobob--I too have this happen to me as I start to get a migraine. If I do nothing my vision is slowly covered by the area of colors and shapes as you described so well. I wasn't going to comment on this until I read your story. Hope you come back and see this. I have found, however, that I can take two Aleve at the first sign of the vision being distorted and I don't have the pain or nausea associated with an all out migraine headache. I will still have the blockage for about the same amount of time, usually less than thirty minutes either way, and won't feel all that good afterwards. (No, I'm not trying to advertise here, it's something I found quite by accident. Folks who have these disabling headaches will try most anything to avoid them.)

Back to what I was talking about, mine seems to be related to stress more than anything else and I only have this happen maybe once or twice a year. It's most disconcerting, especially when driving or trying to read something.


oldmancoyote
Posted 01 January 2008 at 08:37 pm

...many people afflicted with CBS choose not to report these strange visions for fear of having their sanity cast in doubt.

Perectly understandable.I do like NCIS, though. Good show.


Gil
Posted 02 January 2008 at 05:57 am

Reminds me of the bumper sticker: 'I brake for hullcinations' . . .


sd9sd
Posted 02 January 2008 at 06:58 am

These hallucinations would be really worth watching if it would be a high-definition-detail hallucination of Angelina Jolie ;)


coolandDI
Posted 02 January 2008 at 01:04 pm

Brandie said: "hah - first!

Damn Interesting, indeed! Great article - I'd never heard of anything like this before. Since macular degeneration and its polar opposite, retinitis pigmentosa (sp?) run in the family, I'll have to keep an eye out for stuff like that (no pun intended)!"

Hi Brandie, RP or retinitis pigmentosa also runs in my family and two of my aunts have it. They lost their eye sight as small children and are now in there 70s. I don't know your age but if you are an adult the chances of you developing RP are very small. I understand there is a test for it now that was developed in Russia. By the way my aunts are both married and have lots of children none of whom have RP. All the best my friend.


Jakubs02
Posted 03 January 2008 at 10:48 am

oldmancoyote said: "…many people afflicted with CBS choose not to report these strange visions for fear of having their sanity cast in doubt.

Perectly understandable.I do like NCIS, though. Good show."

LOL, very funny


Kao_Valin
Posted 03 January 2008 at 12:48 pm

Techno-Kid said: "This is cute but untrue. For anyone more interested about the concept behind why this particular letter jumble works:

http://www.mrc-cbu.cam.ac.uk/~mattd/Cmabrigde/

As for seeing crazy ass things when your eyes go bad, I can only hope that I am so lucky in my old age. DI for sure!"

That's some great stuff right there. I may wish to spread the word on this. I always suspected some of those holes, but never invested the time.

I think that face in the bushes picture is creepy because its pupils are huge. Least it looks that way. Almost like it has only two black spheres of evil for eyes.


Gene
Posted 03 January 2008 at 10:26 pm

Wow...
That was one of the most well written articles I've ever read on this site. And one of the most interesting too. Wow... that's actually kind of cool... one of those old peoples problems that might actually be neat to have!
Anyways... truly Damn Interesting!
GR


Ed54_3
Posted 04 January 2008 at 11:34 am

About the blind spot...
I came across a flash animation with a bunch of tests to find your blind spot.
The site is http://www.findyourblindspot.com/


chocolate thunder
Posted 05 January 2008 at 10:35 pm

Cool. I second #33 on dreams not being the result of a bored/sensory deprived brain. Maybe more like something to consolidate recent experiences. I was curious about the mechanism of the hallucinations. I'm pretty sure primary sensory cortices actually get information not only from their own modality, but also from others. So a deprived visual cortex would indeed be active despite not getting any visual input, because it may get information from, say, auditory cortex. So someone who is losing their sight would have less *visual* information in their visual cortex, but would still be getting some (say) auditory information there, assuming they aren't deaf. It may be that with decreased visual information, activity from other sensory cortices is capable of overriding or more strongly modulating pathways within visual cortex. The pathways activated, though, might not necessarily be relevant to the visually perceived world. Hence visual images that don't make sense, or hallucinations. The hallucinations may disappear as the brain gradually learns that information from non-visual sensory cortices is exactly that. If true, it would be interesting to know if these patients were in some small way deficient in integrating percepts of different modalities. Just a thought.


dziban303
Posted 09 January 2008 at 03:52 pm

My vision is doing well--One eye is a bit nearsighted for which I wear glasses, but no glaucoma or whatnot--and this happens to me occasionally. I also see patterns and such when looking at something for any length of time. My excuse has always been that I took too much acid as a teenager and these are the aftereffects. Permatrip, we call it.


fatal retreat
Posted 09 January 2008 at 11:37 pm

Could this be where ideas for fantasy novels and movies come from?


Phaeton
Posted 10 January 2008 at 03:30 am

Dude... that picture with the face in the bushes is damn creepy. I hope I never suffer from those sorts of visions.


Theodoric
Posted 14 January 2008 at 02:54 am

First!

Time posting actually. (sorry! I felt that I might make a stupid joke with some variety added to it)

As we say I believe... hmmm.... oh, yes Bloody Intriuging! or Cursed Wonderment!

oh now I get it, it is on the url

Damn Interesting!

Oh and honestly, I more than likely would commit suicide from this condition. To be imprisoned and taunted by your own mind and wrested away the comfort of self-acknowledged sanity til there would be no firm footing to stand upon and understand as a "odd but most definately real" event, item or things of that sort. No help for your condition but an open eaar from a relative or doctor (if your lucky....) who will most likely never truly understand the phenomena and immediate trauma or stress that I would (lol I am deriding them as unable to comprehend but I have done nothing less of being a complete hypocrite- and oh yes I will continue to make myself a fool here :) ) imagine one would experience after encountering one of these "demons" of the subconscious.

Any way I am going to bed and I am sure that what I've typed is riddled with typos, I don't have a spell check and I most definitely could spell them or correct them if I wasn't on the brink of zonking out. Goodnight (or Good Morning- bleh! ) . Boy, am I going to enjoy my classes tomorrow, let me tell you....


Joshua
Posted 19 January 2008 at 07:16 pm

CBS... hmmm... So all that hullaballoo about Janet Jackson's so-called "wardrobe malfunction" was really just our visual cortices playing tricks on us? That was CBS, after all.

Come to think of it, no wonder their logo is a giant eye!


Katie
Posted 24 January 2008 at 04:48 pm

that picture of the face in the bushes was creepy. damn interesting article though.


Renfield5130
Posted 30 January 2008 at 12:57 am

Not too long ago, I experimented with sleep deprivation (without the use of any substance, save for caffeine.) Afterwards, I did a bit of research to try and figure out what these things were that I had experienced while starving myself of sleep. I found that the "hallucinations" I saw were much like what people with CBS experienced, except not quite as vivid, but just as clear. It was nothing like the kinds of hallucinations one would experience with hallucinogenic substances, such as LSD or Mescaline. However, within my research I didn't find many other people who experienced these CBS hallucinations while undergoing self-induced sleep deprivation. For other people it was more of "fuzzy" type hallucinations. Also, in other people's accounts, they didn't experience these hallucinations until around 5 or 6 days after beginning sleep deprivation, whereas I was experiencing my CBS hallucinations around the 40 hour mark.

Another point of interest, is that, during my sleep deprivation, I also experienced Musical Ear Syndrome, which is quite like CBS, but with auditory rather than visual hallucinations. And once again, I found few others who experienced anything like this under sleep deprivation. If you'd like to learn about MES go to http://www.hearinglosshelp.com/articles/mes.htm It's very interesting and I feel lucky that I was able to experience such a phenomenon.

I know I strayed off the CBS topic a bit, but I found that this happened to me quite interesting and perhaps so will others. And if anyone knows anything about the connection between CBS type hallucinations or MSE type hallucinations with sleep deprivation, I'd be interested in perhaps hearing more about it.

And, of course, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article. Great job!


Cyberself
Posted 12 February 2008 at 03:09 pm

Damn interesting article. After hearing a reading of Terence Mckenna i have developed this interrest in psychedelics and consciousnes. And because of my extremely curiosity in this psychedic world i had to explore it on my own. (How foolish i hear you think). I did a couple of shroom trips and a couple of ayahuasca trips (with a real amazonian shaman).

Ayahuasca contains the tryptamine dmt. Dmt is a triptamine wich exist naturaly in your brain.
When you increase the dmt level in your brain you get very real and vivid hallucinations.
But that is not the only thing .. It tries to comunicate with you. I expierenced a connection with my Higher Self. I know this sounds very new age and cheesy but i experienced it that way. You can do this all away as "just hallucinations" but i think there is a bit more to reality than there seems to be. In the Amazonian Ayahuasca is called The medicine. She confronts you
with your inner demons like no shrink can do. Many people beated their Alcohol or drug addiction with her.

On psilocibin (shrooms) trip on my own a had a hallucination of an indian standing im my room (with closed and with open eyes) He looked very real with his bison hat. (why not just a feather as you would expect ?) I don't know if he is just a halucination (I remain skeptic) a jungian archetype or a real spiritguide but he looked like the last. Either way ,he helped me overcome a very difficult moment in the trip (Psychedelics is not only happy stuff you know )

Anyway a nice book on DMT is by Rick Strassman, very very thought provoking stuff in there:

http://www.erowid.org/library/books/dmt_spirit_molecule.shtml

After reading this article I think this CBS disorder is somehow DMT related.

In a weird synchronistic way (or just dumb coincidence of course) on the cover of a mckenna book i'm reading at the moment is that kid with the flower head (in the left top corner) :

http://www.erowid.org/library/books/images/archaic_revival.jpg


documented
Posted 05 March 2008 at 02:44 pm

I am surprised that no-one here has commented so far on the striking similarities between many of these CBS hallucinations & the writings of Carlos Castaneda & his dealings with Don Juan Matus.
CC wrote about 12-13 books on his apprenticeship in the 1960s with the Indian-Toltec nagual/medicine man/sorcerer Juan Matus before CCs death several years ago. Many of the symptoms of C Bonnet syndrome really do sound remarkably similar to both his drug-induced states but also those which he experienced without drugs & where, to CCs general disbelief, Don Juan insists that such beings really do exist in "another" realm (or one of many realms) & that such "visions" are seen by many - ie children, monks, drug takers, visionaries etc.
One of the most obvious logical questions to ask any doubter would be that if these CBS visions are merely hallucinations produced by the cortex "filling in" the now missing data, then why would the gargoyle-like apparitions all be of the same appearance (for many patients) - the wide staring dark eyes, protruding teeth etc - when surely a more likely expectation of a mere set of internally-derived hallucinations would be either a random choice of ordinary facial types or maybe the faces of friends & relatives ? - why gargoyles? - which appearances, incidentally, are very well documented throughout all ages & cultures as the incubus & succubus of dreamtime. If these are purely imaginary, then why do they look the same?
Do all the CBS sufferer's brains by chance arrive at an image of a gargoyle? - seems like a bit of a long shot to me !
Don Juan & the Toltecs on whom his teachings were drawn, used such apparitions or other-worldly beings as aids in their sorcery & called them "allies" - and these could also take very many strange forms & could perform unusual feats & help teach many things, but could often become a nuisance - hanging around when they were no longer wanted/needed.
Many of those who have taken ayahuasca report that the Ayahuasca spirit is "very real indeed" ie a wooden man sitting there & talking to you - & that you can ask questions & will be given answers - ditto for salvia (diviner's sage) - [ which really is VERY profound/strange]
Further, many of the geometric lines & mosaics described in CBS sound like Don Juan talking about the "lines of the world" - where the toltecs maintained that the world and the entire universe is composed of lines or strings that interconnect & that it is only by interacting with these lines that us humans & all other beings can interact with & "understand" the world around us. Don J explained that our modern scientific view of the world is a correct one, but is only a part of the whole story & that - in order to keep us "sane" our brain filters out a lot of what is out there & by concensus We ( the human family) essentially agree on what is REAL - ergo, one possible explanation of why those who are insane (or not Sane) can often see things that the rest of us agree are simply not there - ie, by definition, to be "seeing things" means that you are indeed insane (that you are out-of-step with the rest of us). Ian. UK


Anthropositor
Posted 10 March 2008 at 08:35 am

I troll perhaps a hundred blogs before finding one to bookmark. Most that I bookmark get six or less visits before I once again move on. Encroaching blindness has me more concerned than even the compelling uncertainties of cardiovascular disease or cancer. Related to blindness is hallucination and misinterpretation of visual input.

My right eye has a cataract which prevents sharp detail at any distance and causes loss of contrast problems as well. I have noticed that during driving, I sometimes misinterpret what even the better left eye sees for a split second. This misinterpretation is in fact a momentary hallucination. I must compensate with much greater alertness and concentration. That is to say, because of this developing problem, I use my brain with considerably greater facility. It is not just our other senses that are sharpened when one sense is diminished. Our ability to think is also strengthened in some odd ways.

A stroke impaired my ability as a chess coach a few years ago. Having been a coach for half a century, I was dismayed by this turn of events. I estimated that I had lost something on the order of 40 IQ points. What could be the possible upside of this?

I was able to understand the difficulties of those around me because of the new difficulties in thinking and concentration that I was having. And in relearning many of my skills, I learned new things that I would have been very unlikely to learn without the felt need provided by the injured brain. The plasticity of the brain astonishes me. Before the stroke, I was difficult to astonish. Nothing is routine anymore. The jaded dilettante is gone. The wondering child is back. I still haven't gotten back everything I lost, but the bonuses more than make up for it.


wheresmyhouse
Posted 22 March 2008 at 09:20 pm

The first two times I was able to do the blind spot test successfully, after that, though, I simply couldn't for some reason.


Anthropositor
Posted 24 March 2008 at 03:35 pm

wheresmyhouse said: "The first two times I was able to do the blind spot test successfully, after that, though, I simply couldn't for some reason."

You probably just got a bit tired. Do it again in a day or two. If you still can't do it, you might want to sort out why. Here are another few ways things could go astray.
1. You could be tilting your head. Your eyes should be parallel to the line.
2. Wrong distance from screen. Get closer or a little further away.
3. Look at each letter of the word "interesting" rather than the whole word.
If I am any example, it is in the area of "terest" which will blank out the logo.
The ends of the word allow the logo to reappear.
4. You can test the right eye by covering the left, and looking at about the left edge of the monitor at the spot an extension of the test line would cross. I can't do that at the moment because of some cataract opacity cutting detail, contrast, and even the perception of some colors (like yellow).

I have been working on ways to fix it. An uphill fight. I figure I have a half year to two years before my left eye is in the same position. But I believe I have slowed down the progress of the damage to both eyes significantly in the past year. More on this over at my place, for anyone with developing cataracts who wants to stave off an operation for a few extra years. Just root around in the archives. Might even be an operation to remove a damaged eye I did for my favorite cat Felice, who almost croaked from blunt force trauma which had been applied by an unknown assailant in my back yard. The eye was actually in front of the orbit and well pressurized... Uh, maybe I should stop there.

I doubt anybody wants to hear anything about an impromptu eye removal from a critically injured pet cat. I'll just say Felice is now fat and sassy, doesn't seem to miss the eye, and doesn't seem to hold it against me that I operated without an anesthetic. He was very good about it. I couldn't have done it without his cooperation.

His broken upper jaw came out quite well as well, which is a relief. I would have hated to have him on soft foods forever.


Rachelita
Posted 05 May 2008 at 01:51 pm

Also, that picture with the face floating in th flowers gave me the heeby-jeebys."

I completely agree... Not okay!
I hope this doesn't happen to me...


angelfire04
Posted 08 May 2008 at 07:28 am

this interesting article can make you wonder how far can reality be bended by the brain.. can it also support theories why some people claim to be seeing ghosts while others can't especially ghost are often silent floating beings, often times staring at you or wearing clothes that no longer exists in the present time, or curious enough to explain how some people claim to see creatures that only exists in fairy tales? this article can stir up quite a discussion if you are really up to all the angles and possible expriences that people do or claim to have seen, heard, or felt. could this kind of disease be the god-father of all the folklores, fairytales, and legends? hmmm... interesting indeed!


schoschie
Posted 28 May 2008 at 07:37 am

There's so much in here. It's hard to control all my thoughts. I had to take notes while I was reading the article and the comments so as not to forget all the ideas that came up. Pretty damn interesting article and comments, thanks!

I am most intrigued by the ideas that came up in the latter 10 or 20 comments, namely the similar experiences of people under the influence of psychoactive substances, hinting at the possibility that hallucinations and visions might not simply be random activity of idling parts of the brain, even though it seems to be a very plausible explanation. I agree with »documented« citing Don J »... that our modern scientific view of the world is a correct one, but is only a part of the whole story & that - in order to keep us "sane" our brain filters out a lot of what is out there…«. There's no doubt in our Western civilization's scientific world view being correct as scientific proof is irrefutable. However, that is not to say it is complete. I'm convinced we are missing out on something.

With regard to the evidence of »8.75 megabits per second« worth of visual data input to the eye – I'm not a neurologist, but I find this figure rather questionable as well. 8.75 Mbit/s is only about 1.1 MBytes/s. That's a ridiculously small number (an uncompressed stream of NTSC video data (TV!) is roughly 44 (!) MBytes/s [640 * 480 pixels * 3 bytes/pixel (RGB) * 50 frames per second / 1024 / 1024] – I think most people would agree that human vision is superior to TV in a way such that even the thought of comparing the two is silly). Did the scientists explicitly measure pixels in their experiments? Or, rather, nerve impulses? — I disagree strongly with the prevalent notion of comparing the brain and the nervous system with a digital computer. That is obviously a very, very crude model, but a lot of people seem to take it seriously. Not only is the nervous system analog in nature (allowing much more information to be encoded than the 0/1-absoluteness of digital), but it would appear that nervous impulses carry information (»data«) in ways that are incredibly more complex than a bunch of electrons in a wire.

misanthrope, PhilD, Silverhill, Techno-Kid: I could read and understand both the English and the French jumbled-up words, even though my native language is German (I know English fairly well and my French is so-so). I think it depends a lot on the way you read.

I was surprised to read ifeelya's comment about hallucinations from Prozac. I was pretty sure Fluoxetine should not induce hallucinations, but a quick search seems to prove otherwise: http://www.google.de/search?q=prozac%20hallucinations

PS. I LOL'ed at all the CBS (tv station) jokes!

(BTW: I could not post this from Safari/Mac and had to do it in Firefox. The preview seems to use some JavaScript code that doesn't work in Safari. The page just fades to dark and then nothing happens.)


oldbogeydog
Posted 23 July 2008 at 12:31 pm

Nice link to the Musical Ear, Renfield. My father-in-law had it once and was hearing Silent Night very clearly. He was just about stone-deaf then, as confirmed in the article. When he was hearing it, he'd ask us if we could hear it also and be sort of amazed that we couldn't.


jzigsjzigs
Posted 27 March 2010 at 11:42 pm

Very Damn Interesting! I've been a lurker here for a long time, but this article made me want to join in order to post.

After reading the article, and a few posts, I decided to perform an unscientific experiment. Here it goes:
In a dimly lit room, I forced myself to stare at a particular dark spot on the corner of the wall. (The spot had no significance I believe, but it helped to have something to focus on.) For the first several minutes, nothing special happened. But then, gradually I noticed some weird things. First, the corner itself began to shift in my perception from dark and shady, to light and very bright, and back and forth. It seemed to change due to my subtle eye movements, which I couldn't control. I stuck with it, and I began to notice changes in colors in my peripheral sight. More specifically, above and mostly below I started to see green colors on an unpainted wood object, and in that general area. Green happens to be my favorite color, which may or may not be coincidental. At about this point I had to give up due to eye strain.

This seems to fall in line with some of the theories presented, that the brain will fill in what it doesn't actually perceive. I'm not smart enough to draw any more conclusions from this "experiment," but it was a cool experience, I'd suggest trying it.

I also really enjoyed the blind spot image in the article. At first I couldn't get it to work, but finally I found the sweet spot. I had to try several times just to make sure I wasn't fooling myself.

Damn Interesting indeed!


jzigsjzigs
Posted 28 March 2010 at 12:33 am

After reading through all the comments, I realized that mine was the first post in almost two years, so probably no one will ever read it. Prove me wrong.


Jason Bellows
Posted 28 March 2010 at 07:08 pm

jzigsjzigs said: "After reading through all the comments, I realized that mine was the first post in almost two years, so probably no one will ever read it. Prove me wrong."

No, you're too right.


merrysue
Posted 13 April 2010 at 03:14 pm

I just want you to know that I truly appreciate finding this article. My mother is soon to be 85 yrs old this May and for about the past 6 to 8 weeks my brothers and I have been noticing some very strange behavior during our regular visits to the nursing home. My sister, who has medical power of attorney, made a special trip to see about this. So far Mom has not said she is seeing things, but we feel this article has helped explain a lot about what MIGHT be going on. Thank you so much.


MacAvity
Posted 27 April 2010 at 07:52 pm

One hundred and sixteen comments and no one seems to have voluntarily played with his blind spots before. I'm surprised. Especially as I've read in the comments of other articles that some of you lot have read Oliver Sacks, who devotes a large portion of one of his books to this phenomenon.

I found that it was the word "Damn," not the logo, that disappeared when I looked at the "r" in "Interesting."

Once you (whoever may read this, although JzigsJzigs who thought no one would ever read his comment has had three people do so since last month) get the hang of vanishing the logo, or the word "Damn," as the case may be, try visually decapitating people. It's fun. Just find a person who is holding still a sufficient distance from you (so his head is small enough), line up your blind spot with the person's head, and instead of having a hallucinatory substitute head, your target stands headless. Still alive, still functioning, no bloody stump or any such thing, only conspicuously without a head. Then he walks away and his head comes back. It's a wonderful pastime for bored travellers waiting at airports or train stations or wherever.


RainDamage
Posted 04 August 2010 at 05:54 am

hah, last! (at least for now). Sorry, I'm a bit late, but I just had to comment, because I've actuallyy had these Charles Bonnet hallucinations. I suffered a head injury a few years ago, the optic nerve of one of my eyes was damaged (luckily not both eyes). After a while I started seeing things. Like a little dog and a little fish floating in the air past me while I was walking in the street, or a well dressed (the dress was particulally clear and detailed with a hat and all) little woman smilin and pointing at me. At first I was scared to death, although the visions weren't that threatening. I didn't make the connection with the impairment of my eyesight and the visions, I really thought I was going mad. I had never heard about Charles Bonnet or his syndrome, I found out about that much much later (and not from a doctor, by the way.) Some of the visions were a bit scary, like a small ugly witch sitting on my tv set. Some were funny, like three hamsters in my toilet bowl while I was gonna pee. Well, I peed on them anyway and they disappeared. I don't seem to see those things anymore, although my sight isn't any better. The examples given in the article were on the spot, the hallucinations really were that crazy. :)


DrFirefpx
Posted 17 August 2010 at 12:10 am

Interesting. The other day I looked at a wall with a stain on it (with sunglasses on) and the stain looked like random words flashing past. From words like "Max" to "Scientific".


juliek
Posted 23 October 2010 at 08:09 am

My 83 year old mother has had CBS for a number of years. The lack of recognition of the syndrome within the medical profession is staggering! In January of this year she was admitted to hospital having been found in her garden (where she had fled to avoid the "people threatening her") At hospital she was "fully assessed" by a Prof. in geriatric medicine and labelled as "psychotic"
It has taken us 10 months, sheer bl***y mindedness and, frankly, a large chunk of luck to have had her seen by a "mere" consultant who actually spent time with her, listened to what she had to say, believed that the issues are episodic, appreciated the fact that, for the vast majority of the time, she is a lucid, intelligent, educated and highly articulate lady and was willing to undertake some personal research to explore the possibility that medication may be beneficial.
She is currently on a very low dose of a very common medication and, although not entirely symptom free, the symptoms are transient ( a few minutes or so a day) and of a far less threatening degree than previously.
With the level of ignorance surrounding this condition ( we have consulted ophthalmologists, psychiatrists, general practitioners and geriatricians) coupled with the estimated number of people suffering from it, it would appear (no pun intended!) that far more needs to be done to educate those to whom the blind turn for help.
No wonder that people keep their symptoms of CBS to themselves!


Museful
Posted 06 June 2013 at 10:03 am

makes me think of Tesla and his pigeons


Erelannon
Posted 21 November 2013 at 02:18 pm

If I lay back and stare at a popcorn ceiling or wall, after a minute or so it appears to *swim* like it's under half an inch or so of water. Patterns will sometimes appear too, like faces, letters, numbers, or other things.....


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