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Ramachandran, Dr V S - Nancy the nurse sees cartoons



Type of Spiritual Experience


Number of hallucinations: 1


When people have scotomas, they can hallucinate both things they have seen before, but also things they have never seen before. 

From the evidence of other scotoma patients and people with Charles Bonnet disease, the types of images stored in data stores are those of all the natural forms that have ever existed, plus [and this is intriguing] all the forms we have invented.  Of course it is questionable whether we invented the forms or whether these forms exist ready to be used by us, but as co-creators I think we may well be inventing form.


In effect, there are monkeys, dinosaurs, amoebas, fish, dogs, cats, plants, mountains, valleys, chasms and so on.  But there are also palaces, castles, planes, trains, houses, and …...... possibly cartoons!

A description of the experience

Phantoms in the Brain – Dr V. S. Ramachandran [Professor and Director of the Centre for Brain and Cognition, University of California and visiting fellow All Souls College, Oxford]

Nancy was a nurse from Colorado who had had an arteriovenous malformation or AVM – basically a cluster of swollen fused arteries and veins in the back of her brain.  If it had ruptured, she could have died from a brain haemorrhage, so her doctors zapped the AVM with a laser to reduce it in size and seal it off.  In so doing they left scar tissue on parts of her visual cortex .. she had a small scotoma and hers was immediately to the left of where she was looking, covering about 10 degrees of space.

'Well the most extraordinary thing is that I see images inside the scotoma' Nancy said ..'I see them dozens of times a day, not continuously, but at different times lasting several seconds each time'

'What do you see?'




'What do you mean by cartoons?  You mean Mickey Mouse?'

'ON some occasions I see Disney cartoons.  But most commonly not.  Mostly what I see is just people and animals and objects.  But these are always line drawings, filled in with uniform colour like comic books.  It's most amusing.  They remind me of Roy Lichtenstein drawings'

'What else can you tell me, do they move?'

'No, They are absolutely stationery.  The other thing is my cartoons have no depth, no shading, no curvature'

'Are they familiar people or people you've never seen?'

'They can be either' Nancy said 'I never know what's coming next.

The source of the experience

Ramachandran, Dr V S

Concepts, symbols and science items


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