Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Letter
  • Published:

Perceptual filling in of artificially induced scotomas in human vision


PATIENTS with scotomas or blind-spots in their visual field1–5 resulting from damage to the visual pathways often report that the pattern from the rest of the visual field 'fills in' to occupy the scotoma. Here we describe a novel technique for generating an artificial perceptual scotoma which enabled us to study the spatial and temporal characteristics of this filling-in process. A homogeneous grey square subtending 1.5° was displayed against a background of twinkling two-dimensional noise of equal mean luminance (Fig. 1). On steady eccentric fixation for 10 s the square vanished and was filled in by the twinkling noise from the surround. Using this display we found that 'filling in' is an active visual process that probably involves creating an actual neural representation of the surround rather than merely ignoring the absence of information from the scotoma; filling in can occur separately for colour and texture, suggesting separate mechanisms; the filling-in process does not completely suppress information from the scotoma, even after an image has faded completely from consciousness it can nevertheless contribute to motion perception; and the process can be strongly influenced by illusory contours.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Bender, M. B. & Teuber, H. L. Arch. Neur. Psychiat. 55, 627–658 (1946).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Sergent, J. Brain 3, 347–373 (1988).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Weiszcrantz, I. L. in Current Problems in Animal Behavior (eds W. H. Thorpe and O. Zangwill). 30–58 (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1961).

    Google Scholar 

  4. Poppel, E. Nature 320, 523–525 (1986).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Teuber, H. L. in Brain and Conscious Experience (ed. J. C. Eccles) 182–216 (Springer, New York, 1966).

    Google Scholar 

  6. Brewster, D. Letters on natural Magic, addressed to Sir Walter Scott, Bart. (John Murray, London, 1832).

    Google Scholar 

  7. Ramachandran, V. S. & Anstis, S. M. 11th European Conference on Visual Perception. Bristol, UK, 1987.

  8. Ramachandran, V. S. Perception 19, 273 (1990); The Artful Brain (Oxford University Press, in the press).

    Google Scholar 

  9. Zeki, S. M. Nature 335, 311–317 (1988).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Allman, J., Meizin, F. & McGuinnes, E. L. Perception 14, 105–126 (1985).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Van Essen, D. C. A. Rev. Neurosci. 2, 227–263 (1979).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Livingstone, M. S. & Hubel, D. H. J. Neurosci. 7, 3416–3468 (1987).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Krauskopf, J. Am. J. Psychol. 80, 632–637 (1961).

    Google Scholar 

  14. Crane, H. D. & Piantanida, T. P. Science 1078–1079 (1983).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Yarbus, A. L. Eye Movement and Vision (Engl. Trans. Haigh, B; ed. Riggs, L. A.) (Plenum, New York, 1967).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  16. Kaniza, G. Organization in Vision (Prager, New York, 1979).

    Google Scholar 

  17. Gregory, R. L. Nature 238, 51–52 (1972).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Von Der Heydt, R. E., Peterhans, E. & Baumgartner, G. Science 224, 1260–1262 (1978).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  19. Ramachandran, V. S. Perception 14, 127–134 (1985).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  20. Ramachandran, V. S. Soc. Neurosci. Abstr. 15, 624.

  21. Ramachandran, V. S. Perception and Psychophysics 39, 361––373 (1986).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  22. Ramachandran, V. S. Nature 328, 645–647 (1987).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. Ramachandran, V. S. in Al and the Eye (eds Blake, A. & Troscianko, T.) 21–77 (Wiley, Bristol, 1990).

    Google Scholar 

  24. Finkel, L. H. & Edelman, G. M. J. Neurosci. 9, 3188–3208 (1989).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  25. Grossberg, S. & Mingolla, E. Psychol. Rev. 92, 173–211 (1985).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  26. Shepard, R. in Perceptual Organization (eds Kubovy, M. & Pomerantz, J. R.) 279–343 (Erlbaum, New Jersey, USA, 1981).

    Google Scholar 

  27. Julesz, B. Foundations of Cyclopean Perception, (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1971).

    Google Scholar 

  28. Poggio, T., Torre, V. & Koch, C. Nature 138, 645–647 (1985).

    Google Scholar 

  29. Rock, I. The Logic of Perception (MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1983).

    Google Scholar 

  30. Troxler, D. in Opthalmologische Bibliothek. II, PT2, 1–53 (1804).

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Ramachandran, V., Gregory, R. Perceptual filling in of artificially induced scotomas in human vision. Nature 350, 699–702 (1991).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing