What’s It Like To Be A Neuroscientist With Aphantasia?

Neuroscientist Mac Shine delves into aphantasia—a condition he personally experiences—to challenge conventional views on perception, explore the neuroscience of imagination, and draw unexpected parallels between the cognitive functions of aphantasics and large language models like ChatGPT-4.
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Mac Shine’s Exploration of Aphantasia, Cognition, and ChatGPT

Mac Shine is a neuroscientist at the University of Sydney interested in how the coordinated activity amongst neurons in the brain gives rise to cognition, attention, and perception. He also happens to have aphantasia.

In this engaging presentation, Mac challenges conventional wisdom by arguing that perception is an active, not passive, process. He likens it to “touching the world with your eyes” and explores how this neural network can be “driven in reverse” to fuel imagination or even hallucinations.

Aphantasia, he suggests, may be an inability to engage this reverse gear, affecting not just visualization but also the way we process information. The talk draws intriguing parallels between the cognitive functions of individuals with aphantasia and the computational abilities of large language models like ChatGPT-4.

If you’re curious about the neuroscience of imagination or how aphantasia could offer a fresh perspective on consciousness and information processing, this talk is a must-watch. Mac raises thought-provoking questions and offers promising avenues for future research.

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About the Researcher

Mac Shine is a systems neurobiologist working to understand the mechanisms of cognition and attention using functional brain imaging, both in health and disease. He has a particular interest in understanding how the different arms of the ascending arousal system flexibly modulate the cross-scale organization of the brain to facilitate adaptive behaviour. His paper, The feasibility of artificial consciousness through the lens of neuroscience, highlights the intriguing nature of aphantasia and consciousness.