Aphantasia Research

Evolving library of aphantasia research. Explore imagery extremes, aphantasia and hyperphantasia. Share some of the latest knowledge. 

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Journal article

Visual imagery vividness declines across the lifespan

Erzsébet Gulyás Ferenc Gombos Sára Sütöri Andrea Lovas Gergő Ziman Ilona Kovács in ScienceDirect
The capacity to elicit vivid visual mental images varies within an extensive range across individuals between hyper- and aphantasia. It is not clear, however, whether imagery vividness is constant across the lifespan or changes during development and later in life. Without enforcing the constraints of strict experimental procedures and representativity across the entire population, our purpose was to explore the self-reported level of imagery vividness and determine the relative proportions of aphantasic/hyperphantasic participants in different age groups. Relying on the frequently used Vividness of Visual Imagery Questionnaire, we collected data on a random sample of 2252 participants between the ages of 12–60 years. We found a novel developmental pattern that describes a declining ability to elicit vivid visual mental images in the group averages of different age groups from adolescence to middle age. This effect involves both a decreasing proportion of individuals with vivid visual imagery vividness and an increasing proportion of individuals with low imagery vividness as maturation (based on bone age assessments in adolescents) and ageing progress. These findings may shed some light on the developmental mechanisms of our internal, stimulus-independent processes, and might also help to determine genetic, maturational, and age-dependent factors in the cases of hyper- and aphantasia.
Journal article

Cortical activity involved in perception and imagery of visual stimuli in a subject with aphantasia. An EEG case report

Mariano Furman, Pablo Fleitas-Rumak, Pilar Lopez-Segura et al. in Naurocase
Aphantasia has been described as the inability to voluntarily evoke mental images using the “mind’s eye.” We studied a congenital aphantasic subject using neuropsychological testsand 64 channel EEG recordings, in order to studycortical activity involved in perception and imagery evaluating event-related potentials(N170, P200, N250). The subject is in the normal range of the neuropsychological tests performed, except for specific imagery tests. The EEG results show that when he evokes the same mental image, he starts the evoking process from left temporal instead of frontal areas, he does not activate occipital visual nor left anterior parietal areas.
Journal article

Aphantasia: In search for a theory

Andrea Blomkvist in Wiley Online Library
Though researchers working on congenital aphantasia (henceforth “aphantasia”) agree that this condition involves an impairment in the ability to voluntarily generate visual imagery, disagreement looms large as to which other impairments are exhibited by aphantasic subjects. This article offers the first extensive review of studies on aphantasia, and proposes that aphantasic subjects exhibit a cluster of impairments. It puts forward a novel cognitive theory of aphantasia, building on the constructive episodic simulation hypothesis of memory and imagination. It argues that aphantasia is best explained as a malfunction of processes in the episodic system, and is therefore an episodic system condition.
Journal article

Memories with a blind mind: Remembering the past and imagining the future with aphantasia

Alexei J.Dawes, Rebecca Keogh, Sarah Robucka, Joel Pearson in ScienceDirect
Individuals with aphantasia were assessed on the capacity to re-experience the past and simulate the future. The findings suggest that aphantasia is associated with a diminished ability to re-experience the past and simulate the future, indicating that visual imagery is an important cognitive tool for the dynamic retrieval and recombination of episodic details during mental simulation.
Journal article

Plural imagination: diversity in mind and making

MacKisack, M; Aldworth, S; MacPherson, F; et al. in Art Journal
The experience of visual mental imagery—seeing in the mind’s eye—varies widely between individuals, but perhaps because we tend to assume our own way of thinking to be everyone’s, how this crucial variation impacts art practice, and indeed art history, has barely been addressed. We seek to correct this omission by pursuing the implications of how artists with aphantasia (the absence of mental imagery) and hyperphantasia (imagery of extreme vividness) describe their working processes. The findings remind us of the need to challenge normative, universalizing models of art making and art maker.
Journal article

Memory without imagery: no evidence of visual working memory impairment in people with aphantasia

Knight, KN; Milton, FN; Zeman, A in Cognitive Science Society
Visual working memory and visual mental imagery both involve the use of internal visual representations, and they likely have overlapping neural substrates. However, research on people with “aphantasia,” or a lack of visual imagery, has not found any evidence that aphantasics are impaired on visual working memory tasks, possibly because they can use nonvisual strategies.
Journal article

Congenital lack and extraordinary ability in object and spatial imagery: An investigation on sub-types of aphantasia and hyperphantasia

Liana Palermo, Maddalena Boccia, Laura Piccardi, Raffaella Nori in Consciousness and Cognition
Studies that have shown a distinction between object and spatial imagery suggest more than one type of aphantasia and hyperphantasia, yet this has not been systematically investigated in studies on imagery ability extremes. Also, if the involuntary imagery is preserved in aphantasia and how this condition affects other skills is not fully clear.
Journal article

The mnemonic basis of subjective experience

Hakwan Lau , Matthias Michel, Joseph E. LeDoux and Stephen M. Fleming in Perspectives
Conscious experiences involve subjective qualities, such as colours, sounds, smells and emotions. In this Perspective, we argue that these subjective qualities can be understood in terms of their similarity to other experiences. This account highlights the role of memory in conscious experience, even for simple percepts.
Journal article

Do You See What I See? Exploring Vividness of Visual Mental Imagery in Product Design Ideation

E. Hart and L. Hay in International Design Conference - Design 2022
This paper explores vividness of visual mental imagery in product design ideation. A significant, strong positive relationship was found between vividness and creativity. Most participants reported using imagery always or sometimes, except one who has difficulties forming mental images. The results have several implications, including the possibility of other ‘ways of imagining’ not captured by visual reasoning models of design.
Journal article

Diversity of aphantasia revealed by multiple assessments of the capability for multi-sensory imagery

Takahashi, J., Saito, G., … Gyoba, J. et al. in PsyArXiv
In this study conducted by a team of researchers in Japan with a large sample size (n=2,885) and using various measures of mental imagery revealed that some participants showed the absence of all sensory imagery, while others showed specifically an absence of visual imagery. This study indicates that visual criteria are not sufficient to define multiple types of aphantasia and proposes that evaluations with multi-sensory imagery may help further characterize aphantasia for other types of sensory modality.
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