Recently, I poked myself in between my eye and eye socket, right below my eyebrow, and sometimes I would get this flash of light. Others have tried this too, and they also had a flash of light. I am wondering why is this the case. Does it have to do with the nerves in the eye?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Yes. You somehow stimulated your optic nerve. $\endgroup$
    – MattDMo
    Nov 1, 2015 at 0:44
  • $\begingroup$ Im probly stating the obvious here but i reckon you should probly go to the doctor for this one:) $\endgroup$
    – Technetium
    Nov 1, 2015 at 9:45
  • $\begingroup$ @MattDMo so really, I am really asking which optic nerve I stimulated? $\endgroup$
    – TanMath
    Nov 1, 2015 at 18:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I would like to point out to you that that is exactly what Isaac Newton did and set off his interest in light. I hope you become like him! ;) (you might find this interesting: psmag.com/health-and-behavior/… or even watch ensemblestudiotheatre.org/isaacs-eye-lucas-hnath) $\endgroup$
    – Turbo
    Nov 1, 2015 at 18:48
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @TanMath - there's only one "optic nerve" per eye. That's the name for the bundle of nerves, made up of (?hundreds of thousands?) of nerve cells receiving signals from various nerve endings in the eye. $\endgroup$ Nov 1, 2015 at 19:45

1 Answer 1


Short answer
Pressure phosphenes are believed to be induced by stretch-induced activation of retinal ganglion cells.

Flashes of light (phosphenes) due to pressure on the eye ball are referred to as pressure phosphenes. Based on an electrophysiological study (Grüsser et al., 1989), eyeball indentation presumably tangentially stretches the retina locally, which variably depolarizes horizontal cells. This in turn depolarizes ON-bipolar ganglion cells, while hyperpolarizing OFF-bipolars. Some ON-center neurons also seem to respond to the removal of the deformation. Bipolar cells connect to the retinal ganglion cells. These ganglion cells carry visual information from the retina via their axons in the optic nerve to the brain. Hence, to answer your question: yes, pressure phosphenes are related to activity in the optic nerve.

- Grüsser et al., Vis Res (1989); 29(2): 181–94


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .