Hitting head, seeing stars

Joseph Strout jstrout at ucsd.edu
Thu Oct 17 10:28:36 EST 1996


On Thu, 17 Oct 1996, PJ Skerrett wrote:

>       When you hit your head and see "stars," what are you really seeing?
> 
> Can anyone point me to an answer for that? I've tried a couple
> neurologists/head injury experts, but haven't come up with much of an
> explanation.

I believe that you are seeing activity in the primary visual cortex.  When
you hit your head in back, the skull slams right into that part of the
brain -- and the same thing happens when you hit your head in the front,
by the recoil.  The pressure causes activity in the cells.  (Pressure can
cause activity in almost ANY cell, as can light, electric current, and
many other stimuli.)  The cells are not activated in any coherent pattern,
so the result appears as random points of light.

I'm sorry that I don't have any references handy for this, but that is my
understanding.  I hope you find it helpful.

,------------------------------------------------------------------.
|    Joseph J. Strout           Department of Neuroscience, UCSD   |
|    jstrout at ucsd.edu           http://www-acs.ucsd.edu/~jstrout/  |
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