Blind Mind’s Eye – The Science of Visual Imagery Extremes

Adam Zeman shares the rediscovery of aphantasia, a blind mind's eye, in this presentation from the 2021 Extreme Imagination Conference and Exhibition.
Play Video

The Blind Mind’s Eye With Adam Zeman

Are you blind in your mind’s eye? Aphantasia is a phenomenon where people lack the ability to form mental images. It was first recognized in the 19th century but lacked a name and scientific attention until 2015. The naming of aphantasia led to increased public interest and a surge of new research.

Research shows that people with aphantasia and its opposite, hyperphantasia, have distinct traits in occupation, cognition, behavior, and brain physiology. It also runs in families and is heterogenous. The naming of aphantasia and the research that followed has added to our understanding of mental imagery. However, there are still many unanswered questions about this phenomenon.

Adam Zeman shares the rediscovery of aphantasia in this presentation from the 2021 Extreme Imagination Conference and Exhibition.

About the Extreme Imagination Conference

Extreme Imagination conference and exhibition is a gathering of the world’s foremost thinkers, scientists and creatives challenging long-held beliefs about what it means to imagine and create. The first event was brought to life by Dr. Adam Zeman and the Eye’s Mind team at the University of Exeter in 2019. In 2021, the second conference was hosted virtually by the Aphantasia Network.

About the Researcher

Dr. Adam Zeman trained in Medicine at Oxford University Medical School, after a first degree in Philosophy and Psychology, and later in Neurology in Oxford, at The National Hospital for Neurology in Queen Square, London and Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge. He moved to Edinburgh in 1996 as a Consultant and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences and to the Peninsula Medical School (now University of Exeter Medical School) in September 2005 as a Professor of Cognitive and Behavioural Neurology. His specialized clinical work is in cognitive and behavioural neurology, including neurological sleep disorders. His main research interests are disorders of visual imagery and forms of amnesia occurring in epilepsy. He has an active background interest in the science and philosophy of consciousness, publishing a wide-ranging review of the field in Brain (2001; 124:1263-1289) and an accessible introduction to the subject for a general readership (Consciousness: a user’s guide, Yale University Press, 2002). In 2008 he published an introduction to neurology for the general reader, A Portrait of the Brain (Yale UP), and in 2012, Epilepsy and Memory (OUP) with Narinder Kapur and Marilyn Jones-Gotman.

Zeman, A., Milton, F., Della Sala, S., Dewar, M., Frayling, T., Gaddum, J., … Winlove, C. (2020). Phantasia-The psychological significance of lifelong visual imagery vividness extremes. Cortex; a Journal Devoted to the Study of the Nervous System and Behavior, 130, 426–440. doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2020.04.003
Zeman, A., Dewar, M., & Della Sala, S. (2015). Lives without imagery - Congenital aphantasia. Cortex; a Journal Devoted to the Study of the Nervous System and Behavior, 73, 378–380. doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2015.05.019
Zeman, A. Z. J., Della Sala, S., Torrens, L. A., Gountouna, V.-E., McGonigle, D. J., & Logie, R. H. (2010). Loss of imagery phenomenology with intact visuo-spatial task performance: a case of ‘blind imagination’. Neuropsychologia, 48(1), 145–155. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2009.08.024