Even in the highly developed society with so mature medical system, the human brain is still a big mystery, as proven by the recently published case of a German woman who, although legally blind, has her sight miraculously restored at times. The 37-year-old suffers from dissociative identity disorder (DID), and apparently has perfect vision when she switches to eight out of her ten personalities.
About 17 years ago, the then 20-year-old woman, referred to only by her initials, B.T.,was diagnosed with so-called cortical blindness after an accident damaged the part of her brain responsible for sight.And her eyes showed no sign of physical damage.However, she was completely blind at the time and accompanied by a guide dog.
The now 37-year-old also has a condition previously known as dissociative identity disorder (DID), where multiple personalities battle to control her personality.It manifested no less than 10 personalities of different name, voice, reported age, gender, gesture, attitudes, facial expressions, personal inclinations, aptitudes, temperament and other character traits. In some of the states, the woman could communicate only in English, in others only in German, and then there were those in which she spoke both languages.
And it was during four years of treatment for this disorder that something remarkable happened.While she was in her teenage boy personality, her ability to see returned.Incredibly, over the course of the therapy, she regained her sight while in eight out of ten of her personalities.The woman’s vision turned on and off ‘within seconds’, depending on which personality she was experiencing.
The doctors began to wonder if her blindness was really a physical problem or just a psychological one. So they used an EEG to measure how the visual cortex of her brain responded to visual stimuli. They discovered that when B.T. was ‘blind’, her brain did not respond to the imagery, but when she was in a ‘sighted’ personality state, the measurements were normal. They eventually concluded that the vision problem must have occurred due to an emotional response to the accident, where her body reacted by cutting out what she could see.
The brain has an intricate system to process visual information and give rise to vision. But even with a healthy visual system, she can still go blind.Two of B.T.’s blind personality states still remain, and according to Dr. Strasburger, these might serve as a possibility for retreat. “In situations that are particularly emotionally intense, the patient occasionally feels the wish to become blind, and thus not ‘need to see.’” The line between the physical and the psychological is often blurrier than we might imagine.