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Hippocampal-occipital connectivity reflects autobiographical memory deficits in aphantasia
Merlin MonzelPitshaporn LeelaarpornTeresa LutzJohannes SchultzSascha BrunheimMartin ReuterCornelia McCormick2024Hippocampal-occipital connectivity reflects autobiographical memory deficits in aphantasiaeLife13:RP94916
The study explores how aphantasia affects autobiographical memory (AM), which is our ability to recall past personal experiences. The hippocampus, a part of the brain crucial for storing and retrieving these memories, was of particular interest to researchers. In the study, 14 people with congenital aphantasia and 16 without the condition underwent brain scans while being asked to recall personal memories. It was observed that those with aphantasia faced more difficulties in recalling memories, were less confident about the details, and remembered fewer emotional and internal aspects of their experiences compared to the control group. On a neural level, the aphantasia group showed less activity in the hippocampus but more in the visual-perceptual cortex during memory recall. Interestingly, in people without aphantasia, there was a strong connection between the hippocampus and the visual cortex, which was linked to better visualization skills. This research suggests that the vividness and richness of our memories are significantly supported by the brain's ability to generate visual imagery, facilitated by the interaction between the hippocampus and visual-perceptual areas. For people with aphantasia, altered brain connectivity might explain why their memories feel less vivid or detailed. This study sheds light on the profound impact that the absence of mental imagery can have on how we remember our lives, emphasizing the intricate link between seeing with our mind's eye and the depth of our personal recollections.
Revisiting the blind mind: still no evidence for sensory visual imagery in individuals with aphantasia
Keogh, R., & Pearson, J. (2024). Revisiting the blind mind: still no evidence for sensory visual imagery in individuals with aphantasia. Neuroscience Research. doi:10.1016/j.neures.2024.01.008
In 2018 a study was published showing that fifteen individuals who self-identified as having aphantasia also demonstrated a lack of visual imagery when undergoing the binocular rivalry imagery paradigm, suggesting more than just a metacognitive difference. Here these findings were updated with over fifty participants with aphantasia. The research explored the vividness of visual imagery questionnaire (VVIQ) scores among individuals with aphantasia, attempting to understand the relationship between subjective reports of imagery vividness and objective measures of sensory imagery. Interestingly, about 12% of participants with aphantasia demonstrated above-average scores in the binocular rivalry task, suggesting these individuals may have some form of ‘unconscious visual imagery’ that leads to priming or perhaps the differences reside in the metacognitive process of self-evaluation of imagery vividness. This discovery opens up new avenues for research into the nuances of aphantasia and the potential for different types of visual processing among those who cannot consciously visualize images. It could be interesting, therefore, for future research to investigate whether these individuals who report having aphantasia, but prime binocular rivalry above 60%, likewise might also show evidence of visual imagery using other objective measures (e.g. pupillometry, skin conductance or even decoding in neuroimaging). Overall, the study contributes to our understanding of aphantasia, confirming that it involves more than just a difference in how individuals reflect on their mental imagery abilities. It also raises questions about how best to identify and understand the experiences of those with this fascinating condition.
The role of visual imagery in story reading: Evidence from aphantasia
Speed, L. J., Eekhof, L. S., & Mak, M. (2024). The role of visual imagery in story reading: Evidence from aphantasia. Consciousness and Cognition, 118(103645), 103645. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2024.103645
This study explored how people with aphantasia (a condition where individuals cannot create visual images in their mind) experience reading stories compared to those without this condition. The authors aimed to understand if the lack of visual imagery affects the engagement and enjoyment of reading. In the study, 47 individuals with aphantasia and 51 without (referred to as 'controls') were asked to read a short story. The researchers then assessed their reading experience and general reading habits. They found that those with aphantasia were less engaged and emotionally connected with the story and its characters compared to the control group. However, interestingly, both groups reported similar levels of enjoyment and appreciation of the story. Additionally, their general reading habits were also found to be similar. The authors hypothesized that due to the lack of visual imagery, people with aphantasia might appreciate stories less, be less absorbed in them, and be less emotionally transformed by them. They used various scales to measure these aspects. The study aimed to understand if aphantasics focus on different aspects of a story, like its language, since they don't engage in visual imagery. Overall, this research aims to understand how the absence of visual imagery in aphantasia affects the experience of reading, which can have broader implications for theories of language and cognition.