Can electrical stimulation modify your imagery?

Mike Perrotta asked 3 weeks ago
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I recently wrote an article on new research that uses electrical stimulation to see what’s different in the brains of people who see vivid imagery versus those of aphantasics. The researchers were seemingly able to change how vividly people pictured images. I’m curious what folks think about the research – was imagery vividness really changed? What are the implications of this? The stimulation was only enough to slightly change the vividness, but do you think this same technology could drastically change someone’s imagery? And could it make someone visualize even if they are fully aphantasic? If it could, would you use electrical stimulation to change your imagery? Would you make it more vivid or less vivid? What about for mental imagery in senses other than vision?

SteveCarey February 12, 2021 12:51 am

Would someone who was profoundly aphantasic be able to experience a visual image for the first time this way? Would that be a dramatic experience for them? Or would it be something like the faintest tremour of a hitherto paralysed muscle, so subtle that they wouldn’t be able to tell for sure they’d experienced anything at all? And at the other extreme, do we think that perhaps it might be possible to make a hyperphantasic ‘suffer’ by over-stimulating to the point where they found it unpleasant?

Mike Perrotta replied 2 weeks ago

All good questions! We don’t know any of these answers definitively, but seems like something that further research could figure out. I’d certainly sign up for some electrical stimulation to see if I notice even the faintest bits of visualization.

Amiella February 17, 2021 04:57 pm

I’m fully aphantasic. I got that perhaps electrical stimulation could be used to change mental imagery, but what about mental scents, tastes, or sounds?

Mike Perrotta replied 2 weeks ago

Good question! It seems likely that imagery in the other senses is caused by a similar “top-down” control from the prefrontal cortex to the cortical area of the corresponding sense and that electrical stimulation could similarly change the vividness of those types of imagery – but that’s just my intuition. (And, as a reminder, we don’t know if electrical stimulation would do anything to a sense with no vividness, just that it adjusts the vividness of senses that already have some amount of vividness.)

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