How do aphantasics relive their memories? Aphantasia and Memory Extended Interview with Merlin Monzel

How do aphantasics relive their memories and do these differences show up in their brains? Researcher Merlin Monzel joins Aphantasia Network to share new findings on aphantasia and memory.

Unlocks on July 22, 2024

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Aphantasia and Memory

Imagine recalling a momentous occasion—a wedding, perhaps. Can you visualize the scene? Hear the laughter, feel the joy? For many, memories are a vivid recollection of sensory details. But what if you have aphantasia?

When remembering events, two different types of details are retrieved from memory: the semantic scaffold, and the episodic details. The semantic scaffold includes facts such as ‘When and where was the wedding?’ and ‘Who got married?’. This scaffold is enriched with episodic details such as ‘What did the bride look like?’, and ‘How did the wedding cake taste like?’ to create vivid mental images and a sense of reliving. But what happens to these memories without mental imagery?

In a recent study, a team of researchers from the University Hospital Bonn (UKB), the University of Bonn, and the German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) examined aphantasia and memory. They specifically focused on autobiographical memory, or remembering one’s past and the neural correlates in people with aphantasia. How do aphantasics relive their memories, and do these differences show up in their brains?

Join us for a live members-only presentation of findings and Q&A on April 30th at 10 am Eastern Time with researcher Merlin Monzel and host Tom Ebeyer to discover how aphantasia impacts memory and the brain’s unique adaptations to it.

About the Researcher

Monzel specializes in multisensory imagery and is head of the Aphantasia Research Project at the University of Bonn. He and his team are investigating the causes and consequences of aphantasia by using objective methods to measure mental imagery. 

Some of his best-known publications deal with the memory and emotional processing of aphantasics. He believes that aphantasia is not a disorder, but a manifestation of neurodiversity.

He has given several talks for the Aphantasia Network and is also consulted as a research ambassador.

Merlin Monzel Pitshaporn Leelaarporn Teresa Lutz Johannes Schultz Sascha Brunheim Martin Reuter Cornelia McCormick 2024 Hippocampal-occipital connectivity reflects autobiographical memory deficits in aphantasia eLife13:RP94916