Fairy Blind?/Phantasy Friday

Imagine being legally blind, yet seeing horses and bicycles racing, whole landscapes whizzing past as if viewed from a train. Or waking one morning to find your white walls now papered in a brickwork effect.  These images may be black and white or color, still or moving, but all are silent.

You’d be forgiven for feeling as if you were losing your mind, or believing your home haunted. This is a condition called Charles Bonnet Syndrome, or CBS, a type of hallucination associated with age-related macular degeneration. An estimated 100,000 people in the UK have CBS, but many won’t realize it because the condition remains something of a mystery. The real number is probably higher because sufferers are often too ashamed to talk about what they have seen for fear of being considered crazy.

The condition was named after Charles Bonnet, an 18th-century Swiss natural philosopher whose grandfather had seen people, patterns and vehicles not really there. Bonnet was the first person to identify that you could have visual hallucinations and still be mentally sound. Hallucinations associated with CBS tend to have common themes: simple geometric patterns, disembodied faces with jumbled features, landscapes, groups of people, musical notes, vehicles and miniature figures in Victorian or Edwardian costume.  The condition can affect anybody at any age with diminishing eyesight. Even people with normal vision can develop it if they blindfold themselves long enough.

CBS is caused by lack of visual stimulation rather than mental dysfunction. Usually, on opening our eyes, the nerve cells in the retina send a constant stream of impulses to the visual parts of our brain. If the retina is damaged, the stream of impulses reduces, but–rather than lie dormant–other parts of the brain become hyperactive. When not receiving as many pictures as it is used to, the brain builds its own artificial images instead from the areas we use every day to process faces, objects, landscapes and colors.

Tactile stimulation is thought to help sufferers of CBS stop experiencing hallucinations; something as simple as moving the fingertips over the dimples in a set of dice. Hallucinations may last from only a few seconds to several hours. In a minority of cases, they are continuous throughout the day. Patients usually have several daily before they taper off to once a week, then once a month. For 60% of patients, they will stop entirely after 18 months.

So, could CBS be the source of so many fairy or ‘little people’ sightings across the UK? Or is it the explanation we resort to, to deal with something we’re uncomfortable acknowledging? Me? I have too much fun with the search for truth. I’m going fairy hunting!   

                            Our own Sizzler Sister Sayde Grace offers a piece of cowboy tale! RIDING DOUBLE, on sale for the first time today, at Wild Rose Press!  http://www.thewildrosepress.com/wilderroses/index.php?main_page= product_info&products_id=771

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6 Responses

  1. Cool post, as usual, Runere. If you gotta go blind, seeing fairies would be the way to keep it interesting!

    Thanks for the “hot” button to order Sayde’s book. AND HAPPY RELEASE DAY to Sayde!

  2. Wow, this is a great post! I’ve never heard of this syndrome, but it would explain a lot.

    The brain is a wonderful and mysterious organ, isn’t it? I do know that the brain needs dreams. There was a study/challenge kind of thing in the 60’s where a DJ stayed up for 3 or 4 days straight. When his brain was deprived of it’s regular REM cycle, he began hallucinating; pretty much seeing his dreams while he was awake. I always thought that was fascinating. I’m so glad you posted this because now I have to learn more about it!

    Sayde…girl, congrats again!

  3. Awesome post Lois, pretty cool information. I hope when I’m old and crazy I can see fairies.. winks.

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