Despite our many technological advancements, 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.
The woman, only referred to by her initials B.T., first went to see German psychotherapist Dr. Bruno Waldvogel about 14 years ago. She was completely blind at the time and accompanied by a guide dog. She told the doctor that her vision had become severely impaired during an accident at age 20, after which she gradually became blind. Waldvogel checked her medical records, which clearly stated that she had been diagnosed with cortical blindness from trauma to the skull and brain. Her eyes showed no sign of physical damage.
Waldvogel eventually diagnosed B.T. with DID, previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder, which manifested itself through no less than 10 personalities of different names, voices, and genders. Some of her personalities spoke only in German, others used English. But a major breakthrough came after about four years of treatment, when Waldvogel was shocked to witness B.T. recognize a few words on the cover of a magazine. She had assumed the personality of a teenage boy at the time.
Baffled, Waldvogel and his fellow psychologist Dr. Hans Strasburger 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 regaining of vision happened immediately after a therapy session in which a major traumatic event had been worked on,” Dr. Strasburger explained. That was many years after the blindness first began.”
Over time, B.T.’s vision steadily improved – she was able to recognise more words, then brightly lit objects, and eventually everything else around her. Her vision was first limited to just that one personality state, but slowly extended to seven others. According to the doctors, her “sighted and blinded states could alternate within seconds.”
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.’”
via Brain Decoder