The functioning of the human brain is decidedly mysterious! A thirty-seven year old blind German woman is a proof. The woman also suffers from dissociative identity disorder (what was once called “multiple personalities”), and yet in several of her other personalities she can see.

The woman had turned to the German psychotherapist Dr. Bruno Waldvogel about 14 years ago. At the time she was completely blind, so much so that she was accompanied by a guide dog. Her vision had become severely impaired due to an accident at the age of 20, and gradually the woman became completely blind. The doctors’ diagnosis was “cortical blindness from traumas to the skull and brain”, while her eyes had not suffered physical damage.

blind person

After about four years of treatment, Waldvogel was shocked when he noticed the woman recognise a couple of words on a magazine cover. At that moment she had assumed the personality of a teenage boy.

Puzzled, Waldvogel and his fellow psychologist Dr. Hans Strasburger began to wonder if the woman’s 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, and found that when the woman was ‘blind’, her brain didn’t respond to images, but when she was in a state of ‘seeing’ personality, the measurements were normal. Eventually they concluded that the vision problem had occurred due to an emotional response to the incident, where her body reacted by cutting what she could see.

Over time, the view of the woman constantly improved, recognising more and more words, objects, and in the end everything else around her. The sight remained however limited only to that state of personality, even if slowly extended to other seven. Two of the blind personality states still remain today, and according to Dr. Strasburger, these could serve as a sort of escape route. “In situations of particular emotional intensity, the patient occasionally feels the desire to become blind,” explains the doctor.