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Sensation of spots of light in the visual field due to a stimulus other than light, such as pressure on the eyeball or an electrical stimulus to the retina or visual pathway.



a visual sensation that occurs in man without the action of light on the eyes.

Phosphenes may appear spontaneously in the dark, or they may be induced by mechanical pressure on closed eyes, by the chemical action of psychotropic agents on the central nervous system, or by the electrical excitation of the retina through electrodes placed on the temples. They can also be induced by direct electrical excitation of the visual centers of the cerebral cortex.

Phosphenes may be bluish, greenish, yellowish, or orange in color; their shapes are varied. When phosphenes are produced by excitation of the visual centers of the cerebral cortex, the subject ceases to see his surroundings and sees only light spots, which move with the eye movements. The excitation of adjacent regions of the cortex produce phosphenes of geometric and other shapes.

Phosphenes are not seen by persons blind from birth, but they may be induced in individuals who have become blind. Therefore, attempts are being made to create visual prostheses using artificial excitation of phosphenes. Phosphenes seen by a person in the presence of illumination sometimes blend with the images he sees of the real world, thereby creating visual illusions. Bright phosphenes may be a symptom of disease.


Luriia, A. R. Vysshie korkovye funktsii cheloveka i ikh narusheniia pri lokal’nykh porazheniiakh mozga. Moscow, 1962.
Oster, G. “Fosfeny.” Nauka i zhizn, 1971, no. 4.
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In case of two reports, it was not clear whether the images were seen with open or closed eyes (aurora-like phosphenes, geometric shapes, fractals).
Un intentionnaliste pourrait retorquer que dans la perception il y a bien une marge d'erreur representee par la vaste gamme d'illusions et d'hallucinations perceptives : batons casses dans l'eau, pieces apparemment elliptiques, tours carrees qui "deviennent" rondes, phosphenes, mirages .
A history of hypertension, diabetes, or polymyalgia rheumatica points to vascular causes, and hyperthyroidism suggests that flashing lights may be phosphenes of Graves' disease.
Such experiences of seeing light when light is not actually entering the eye are known as phosphenes.
One possibility is that rubbing or pressing the eye may stimulate the optic nerve endings and evoke so-called phosphenes, sensations of light at the cortical level (Fazzi et al.
Malotki lists 15 "human universals," called phosphenes, found in rock art around the world.
With effort Charlie sat up, and the simple movement sent whorls of twinkling phosphenes caroling before his eyes.
These patients may also experience reduced contrast sensitivity and disturbed colour vision or have dullness of vision, and in rare cases they might perceive phosphenes.
These phosphenes do not convey real-form vision, yet they do allow the wearer crude localization of outlines in the scene.