Begin your aphantasia discovery journey
Embark on a journey of self-discovery with these must-read stories from our community. Join a discussion to connect with other like minds. Delve into the science behind extreme imagination. Discover and learn about aphantasia, or image-free thinking.
Loss of imagery phenomenology with intact visuo-spatial task performance: a case of ‘blind imagination’
Zeman, A. Z. J., Della Sala, S., Torrens, L. A., Gountouna, V.-E., McGonigle, D. J., & Logie, R. H. (2010). Loss of imagery phenomenology with intact visuo-spatial task performance: a case of ‘blind imagination’. Neuropsychologia, 48(1), 145–155. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2009.08.024
This study focuses on the case of a patient, MX, who lost the ability to generate visual images but performed normally on standard tests of perception, visual imagery, and memory. The researchers used functional MRI scanning to explore this unexpected phenomenon and found that while MX's brain showed reduced activity in posterior regions during attempted imagery, activity in frontal regions was increased compared to controls. These findings suggest that MX adopted a different cognitive strategy when performing the imagery task, which led to successful performance in visual memory and imagery tasks without the experience of visual imagery. The results of this study demonstrate the dissociation between the phenomenal experience of visual imagery and successful performance in visual memory and imagery tasks.
Lives without imagery – Congenital aphantasia
Zeman, A., Dewar, M., & Della Sala, S. (2015). Lives without imagery - Congenital aphantasia. Cortex; a Journal Devoted to the Study of the Nervous System and Behavior, 73, 378–380. doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2015.05.019
This study presents a case report of a 65-year-old man who became unable to imagine images in his mind after a heart procedure. The authors were later contacted by over 20 individuals who recognized their own lifelong condition of "blind imagination". The participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire to explore the features of their condition, and the authors named it aphantasia. The individuals reported becoming aware of their condition in their teens or twenties when they realized that, unlike themselves, most people had a quasi-visual experience of imagining things in their mind's eye.
The blind mind: No sensory visual imagery in aphantasia
Keogh, R., & Pearson, J. (2018). The blind mind: No sensory visual imagery in aphantasia. Cortex; a Journal Devoted to the Study of the Nervous System and Behavior, 105, 53–60. doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2017.10.012
This study investigated the condition of aphantasia, where individuals are unable to experience visual imagery. Until now, aphantasia has only been based on subjective reports, so the study aimed to measure sensory imagery in self-diagnosed aphantasics using the binocular rivalry paradigm and multiple questionnaires. The results showed that aphantasics had almost no imagery-based rivalry priming, and their self-rated visual object imagery was significantly lower compared to the general population, but their spatial imagery scores were higher. The study concludes that aphantasia involves a lack of sensory and phenomenal imagery, not a lack of metacognition. The possible neurological causes of aphantasia and future research directions are discussed.
Phantasia – the psychological significance of lifelong visual imagery vividness extremes
Zeman, A., Milton, F., Della Sala, S., Dewar, M., Frayling, T., Gaddum, J., … Winlove, C. (2020). Phantasia-The psychological significance of lifelong visual imagery vividness extremes. Cortex; a Journal Devoted to the Study of the Nervous System and Behavior, 130, 426–440. doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2020.04.003
Visual imagery typically enables us to see absent items in the mind's eye. It plays a role in memory, day-dreaming and creativity. Since coining the terms aphantasia and hyperphantasia to describe the absence and abundance of visual imagery, Adam Zeman and his team have been contacted by many thousands of people with extreme imagery abilities. Through data collected from questionnaires filled by 2000 participants with aphantasia and 200 with hyperphantasia, the researchers have found some interesting patterns. Participants with aphantasia tend to work in scientific and mathematical fields and have difficulty with face recognition and autobiographical memory. On the other hand, those with hyperphantasia tend to work in creative fields and have a higher rate of synaesthesia. The study found that around half of the participants with aphantasia reported the absence of wakeful imagery in all sense modalities, but most of them dream visually. The researchers have also noted that aphantasia runs in families more frequently than expected. This study highlights the widespread but neglected features of human experience with informative psychological associations.
Aphantasia within the framework of neurodivergence: Some preliminary data and the curse of the confidence gap
Monzel, M., Dance, C., Azañón, E., & Simner, J. (2023). Aphantasia within the framework of neurodivergence: Some preliminary data and the curse of the confidence gap. Consciousness and Cognition, 115, 103567. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2023.103567
The term "neurodiversity" refers to the varied ways people think, learn, and behave, emphasizing that there's no single "correct" way and that differences shouldn't be seen as deficits. This concept often encompasses conditions like Autism, ADHD, and Dyslexia, which diverge from societal norms but can also bring unique strengths. The paper discusses aphantasia, a condition where individuals can't voluntarily visualize images. While they know what things look like, they can't form a mental picture. Despite being a minority, with 3.9% of the population affected, its prevalence is significant. There's debate on whether aphantasia is a disorder or just a neutral form of neurodivergence. This paper argues against viewing aphantasia as a disorder, emphasizing the broader context of neurodiversity.
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