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  • Evolving database of the most impactful aphantasia research and articles on the web
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  • Tom Ebeyer
  • Visualization
  • VVIQ
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The blind mind: No sensory visual imagery in aphantasia

JOEL PEARSON, RESEARCHGATE

For most people the use of mental imagery is pervasive in daily life, but for a small group of people, the experience of mental imagery is entirely unknown. Cognitive neuroscientist, Joel Pearson of the University of New South Wales in Sydney Australia, conducts a study with subjectively self-diagnosed aphantasics and publishes The blind mind: No sensory visual imagery in aphantasia. In the study techniques like the binocular rivalry, as well as measuring their self-rated object and spatial imagery with multiple questionnaires (VVIQ, SUIS and OSIQ) are used to explore sensory imagery. Unlike, the general population, aphantasics showed almost no imagery-based rivalry priming. Aphantasic participants’ self-rated visual object imagery was significantly below average, however their spatial imagery scores were above average. The findings suggest aphantasia is a condition involving a lack of sensory and phenomenal imagery and not a lack of metacognition.

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If you can’t imagine things, how can you learn?

MO COSTANDI, THE GUARDIAN

Visualization is a powerful tool that can accelerate learning and improve performance but what If you can’t imagine things […]?. In this article posted in The Guardian, author Mo Costandi illuminates how most people rely on mental imagery for memory, daydreaming and imagination. Further, while the use of mental imagery is not directly related to measures of intelligence, vocabulary, and reading comprehension; it does play a role in how some schoolchildren acquire literacy skills from helping them remember what they read, to improving their performance on memory tasks. Mental imagery can also be used in the teaching and learning of mathematics and computer science, both of which involve an understanding of the patterns within numbers, and creating visual representations of the spatial relationships between them. From this view, aphantasia could be seen as impeding learning ability, though further systemic research on the subject is needed.

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Aphantasia: How it feels to be blind in your mind.

BLAKE ROSS, FACEBOOK

When aphantasia was first given a name by Adam Zeman back in 2015 Blake Ross , best known for his work as co-creator of Mozilla internet browser and Director of Product at Facebook, was among the originals who reported an inability to visualize in their mind. In Aphantasia: How it feels to be blind in your mind , an article posted on Facebook, Ross details his discovery of aphantasia and some of the social experiments he conducted in his quest for answers. Even though the majority of people Ross interviewed were able to create mental images, he managed to talk to some who shared a similar experience. In asking questions, Ross gained a new perspective on the human experience of aphantasics. To date, this remains among one of the most widely shared articles on aphantasia.

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My mind’s eye is blind – so what’s going on in my brain?

DUSTIN GRINNELL, NEW SCIENTIST

My mind’s eye is blind […] I couldn’t picture her face. When Dustin Grinnell and his girlfriend move to opposite sides of the US for work, Grinnell discovers he is unable to conjure up a mental image of her face. Grinnell first discovered he was aphantasic after watching a 60 minute interview with biologist Craig Venter, the creator of the first synthetic organism. In the interview, Benter attributes his academic success to an unusual way of thinking, using purely concepts with no mental imagery whatsoever. Grinnell begins investigating the condition further and discovers that science is starting to find answers.

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Picture this? Some just can’t.

CARL ZIMMER, NEW YORK TIMES

Picture this? […] A retired surveyor who can no longer imagine. This New York Times article chronicles the experience of a 65-year-old man from the UK, patient MX, who reported losing his mind’s eye after heart surgery. Assigned to the case is UK neurologist Adam Zeman, tasked with figuring out what’s going on in MX’s head. Zeman publishes the first scientific study on aphantasia in June of 2015, and a few days later, is picked up by New York Times writer Carl Zimmer in Picture This? […]. When the research went public, dozens of people from around the world came forward saying they share a similar experience to MX; They do not create mental images in their mind. However, unlike MX, they have it from birth.

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Lives without imagery – Congenital aphantasia

ADAM ZEMAN, RESEARCHGATE

Neurologist Adam Zeman of the University of Exeter publishes Lives without imagery – Congenital aphantasia, the first fMRI study on mental imagery. The study involved a patient, known as MX, who reported losing his ability to visualize in the mind after undergoing heart surgery. In his study, Zeman uses an MRI scanner to monitor MX’s brain activity when asked to name famous people. The scan reveals that different regions of his brain were active when MX lists the names one by one. However, when it comes time to picture their faces, MX draws a total blank. The scan reveals complete inactivity or total darkness. Zeman refers to the inability to generate mental imagery as aphantasia. Although the phenomenon was already described nearly 150 years ago (Galton, 1880), it regained public attention and was given a name by the scientific community for the first time.

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Severely deficient autobiographical memory (SDAM)

BRIAN LEVINE ET AL, SCIENCE DIRECT

The ability to recall previously experienced events is a key element of human memory. While deficits in this capacity are often associated with brain disease, little is known about individual differences in autobiographical memory (AM) in healthy individuals. AM is defined as both the recollection of personal past events and factual knowledge about oneself. Recently, healthy adults with highly superior autobiographical capacities or HSAM have been identified. In this scientific study, three healthy, high functioning adults with the reverse pattern: lifelong severely deficient autobiographical memory or SDAM are identified. Their self-reported selective inability to vividly recollect personally experienced events from a first-person perspective was corroborated by the absence of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) giving evidence to the idea that autobiographical memory might lie on a spectrum. Early findings suggest there may be a correlation between SDAM and aphantasia.

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Not Everyone Conducts Inner Speech

RUSSELL T. HURLBURT, PSYCHOLOGY TODAY

Much of what we say is never said aloud; it occurs silently in the privacy of our minds. We chastise, congratulate, joke, and generate endless commentary, all without making a sound. This is a distinctively human ability to have conversations in the privacy of our minds and in a sense “hear” ourselves talk. But not everyone conducts inner speech. In a 2011 study, PhD Russell Hurlburt and Chris Heavey gave random beepers to a random sample of 30 students and interviewed them about the characteristics of their inner experiences. From this random sample, there were large individual differences: some never experienced inner speech while others experienced inner speech in as many as 75% of their samples.

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