Imaginal Neglect, Aphantasia & The Imagery Debate with Dr. Paolo Bartolomeo [Member Exclusive]

Dr. Paolo Bartolomeo a neuroscientist from the Paris Brain Institute joined Aphantasia Network to discuss some of the recent aphantasia brain research.
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Imaginal Neglect, Aphantasia & The Imagery Debate

Dr. Paolo Bartolomeo a clinical neurologist and neuroscientist from the Paris Brain Institute joined Aphantasia Network to discuss some of the recent aphantasia brain research.

This event introduced the phenomenon of imaginal neglect, a rare condition where people ignore stimuli on one side of their imagination. In other words, they only see half of a mental image. Dr. Bartolomeo, with his extensive background in cognitive research and brain imaging, shared insights from his research work. Having contributed over 190 papers to the scientific community, his work includes discoveries in attention disorders and visual mental imagery, making him an authoritative voice in this field.

Hosted by Tom Ebeyer, this event engages in a dynamic conversation about voluntary visual mental imagery, explores the ongoing debate surrounding brain activity in this context, and addresses some of the big, yet unresolved, questions in the field.

Timestamps

  • 1:00 – Paolo’s background studying Imaginal Neglect.
  • 5:15 – How did you go from studying in Rome to your work now at the Paris Brain Institute studying visual mental imagery?
  • 8:35 – What is the mental imagery debate?
  • 12:35 – Questions like: “What’s darker, the strawberry or the cherry” are interesting. Aphantasics can still answer these questions. How are these questions answered? For the visualizer, they might imagine and make a comparison. But for aphantasics, there’s no image only inherent knowledge. How do we square this?
  • 15:06 – In acquired aphantasia, where there is some damage to the brain, would we see cases like this as something that needs to be cured or fixed? And is this because there’s brain damage, or because maybe they haven’t learned the strategies that a congenital case of aphantasia would have learned? Why are there such differences in these two cases?
  • 18:30 – Is acquired aphantasia a very different case from Imaginal Neglect cases? Or analogous?
  • 19:30 – Is it always on one particular side of the brain in cases of Imaginal Neglect?
  • 20:41 – Have you ever come across congenital cases of Imaginal Neglect?
  • 22:42 – Based on everything we know so far about aphantaisa and how it’s represented in the brain, do you believe it’s theoretically possible for aphantasics to experience imagery? We know that the same regions are active but not coordinating in the same way. Is it possible to change how those brain pathways coordinate?
  • 24:55 – There’s quite a large spectrum of experience when it comes to visual mental imagery. Some people experience very vivid mental images, for others, it’s more vague. Why such variation?
  • 26:02 – Do we think something similar spectrum would apply across all the senses such as auditory or gustatory imagery?
  • 27:16 – Would this imply that there could be domain-specific variances in sensory imagination? For example, some people can’t experience visual mental imagery but can still experience auditory imagery.
  • 29:12 – Even for those who can visualize, there can be individual differences in sub-categories of visual mental imagery (i.e. faces, colors, shapes, letters and special relationships)?
  • 29:53 – Where do you see the field evolving? What are some of the big questions in visual mental imagery? How does aphantasia assist in our understanding of how visual mental imagery works?
  • 31:22 – We see similar outcomes in aphantasics performance on tasks one might assume requires visual imagery. But we do see a difference in the confidence of answers. Can you explain what some of the recent aphantasia brain research found?

Community Q&A

  • 36:46 – [In cases of Imaginal Neglect] Do you mean people ignore stimuli on one side of their imagination or their brain?
  • 37:17 – As a non-visualizer, I hear many describe their visualization experience as a computer screen or TV in the mind. Is that a fair representation?
  • 39:23 – If I understand correctly if someone is remembering or revisualizing a memory, it’s not like a video recorder. They’re not replaying exactly what they saw. It’s generated at the time of experience. Is this correct?
  • 41:49 – Question regarding cases of aphantasia. Do you think early childhood trauma may cause aphantasia?
  • 43:44 – In acquired aphantasia, where people lose mental imagery, have you had cases of people regaining it partially or fully?
  • 44:23 – Do you think it’s possible to modify imagery experiences? Give people the ability to turn in on or off voluntarily.
  • 45:59 – Given imagery can be both voluntary and involuntary, are there differences in the neuro-pathways involved in voluntary and involuntary imagery?
  • 49:35 – Do we know why or how intrusive images occur?
  • 52:20 – Have you studied the changes in connectivity between brain areas during different states such as dreaming, hypnogogic, and drug-induced visuals?
  • 55:34 – There’s lots of hype around A.I. nowadays. Does A.I. offer a metaphor for how people reconstruct memories/images? Could that then be extended to help explain aphantasia?
  • 58:15 – Given neuroplasticity, do you think the feedback from EEG using sounds or VR could improve visual imagery or connectivity between brain areas?
  • 58:52 – What are future prospects for research into psychedelics and aphantasia? Do you have insights into how to go about studying baseline visualization data in a population on a larger scale?
Liu, J., & Bartolomeo, P. (2023). Probing the unimaginable: The impact of aphantasia on distinct domains of visual mental imagery and visual perception. Cortex; a Journal Devoted to the Study of the Nervous System and Behavior, 166, 338–347. doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2023.06.003