Our mission is to unleash the power of image-free thinking.
Aphantasia Network is creating a place to discover and learn about aphantasia. Thousands of curious discoverers join our community to better understand their invisible difference and how aphantasia can impact our life, work and well-being.
What is Aphantasia?
Aphantasia is the inability to visualize. Otherwise known as image-free thinking.
People with aphantasia don’t create any pictures of familiar objects, people, or places in their mind’s eye. Not for thoughts, memories, or images of the future. We lack this quasi-perceptual “picture-it” system completely.
The Aphantasia Network is a global community to learn and discover aphantasia. Together, we’re uncovering new insights into what it means to learn, create, dream, remember and more with blind imagination.
Think of a horse. Does some kind of mental image of a horse come to mind? Try comparing the image of a horse in your head with how you know it looks in real life. Is the scenario you imagine equally vivid to its real-world counterpart, a little less vivid, somewhat vivid, not very vivid at all, or completely absent
It’s no secret that our conscious thoughts are private, and evaluating the vividness of our own internally generated experiences – such as in visualization – can be challenging. On the one hand, it can be challenging to determine the precise details of the mental images in our mind’s eye and even sometimes tell whether we have formed a mental picture at all.
But, as it turns out, you may know your thoughts better than you think you do! Research has provided a growing body of behavioural and neuroimaging evidence suggesting we have a pretty good metacognitive understanding of our mental imagery capabilities.
Yes. It’s not just the visual system that’s impacted. Some aphantasics experience multisensory aphantasia. They also cannot hear sounds, imagine smells, tastes, movement or touch using their imagination.
Aphantasia impacts our inner sense of sight, and can impact other senses in our imagination too. If you think of your favorite meal, can you almost smell or taste it? These dimensions of sensory imagination are called olfactory and gustatory imagery. To test where you fall on the spectrum and explore imagery impacts, take the Imagination Spectrum assessment.
Aphantasia is a variation in human experience. It is not a disability, disorder, or defect. Nor is it a barrier to success. Aphantasics can make brilliant creatives, inventors, authors, musicians, scientists, entrepreneurs and more. Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar and former president of Walt Disney Animation Studios. Craig Venter, the biologist who first sequenced the Human Genome. Blake Ross, creator of Mozilla Firefox. Glen Keane, Disney Animator and Creator of The Little Mermaid. Penn Jillette of Penn and Teller. All have aphantasia.
The opposite of aphantasia is known as hyperphantasia, or extremely vivid sensory imagination. For someone with hyperphantasia, visualizing can look as vivid as real seeing.
Aphantasia was first given a name in 2015, but knowledge of our invisible differences can be found dating back to 340 BC. Aristotle stands at the beginning of this history when aphantasia was not an established topic of discussion yet. Aristotle coins the term phantasia in De Amina (On the Soul), Part III to describe a distinct capacity between perception and thought — a sort of ‘sixth sense.’ Phantasia is commonly translated to imagination, or as Aristotle describes “that in virtue of which an image occurs in us”— in thoughts, dreams, and memories. His account of phantasia includes mental imagery, dreams, and even hallucinations.
During this period, however, it was generally believed that thoughts required images. That is, “whenever one contemplates, one necessarily at the same time contemplates in images” (De Anima Part III 8). Aphantasia, or blind imagination, proves Aristotle may have been wrong about that.
Fast forward to 2009, Dr. Adam Zeman a neurologist from Exeter University receives a patient who can no longer imagine — known affectionately among the aphantasia community as patient MX. Patient MX goes blind in his mind’s eye after undergoing surgery. News of patient MX’s experience attracted media attention which led to many new discoverers who could relate to a similar experience, only they had been blind in their mind’s eye since birth. Zeman coins the term aphantasia to describe the inability to visualize in 2015. The “a” in a-phantasia denotes its absence.
People have taken objective tests in a lab like measuring pupil response when asked to imagine a beam of light, fear-based responses using skin-conductance levels (SCL) when presented with scary stories, among other notable experiments. Researchers have observed that people who report vivid imagery have very different physiological and behavioural responses to these tests than people with aphantasia. Although this doesn’t let us know defintively that they’re vividly seeing an image, it all points to the fact that something is truly different between people who claim to see vividly and those who don’t. We can also observe in neuro-imaginging studies an activation in the visual cortex, the area in the brain that processes images from the eyes, which further suggests actual visualization.
The majority of people have aphantasia since birth, called “congenital,” or lifelong aphantasia. Rarely can it result from a stroke or head injury. It may also occur as a result of an episode of depression. So if someone who has previously had imagery loses it suddenly, it’s reasonable to ask and attempt to learn why. For more information about a probable cause, check out these shocking insights.
Researchers do have evidence that aphantasia is hereditary. If you have aphantasia, likely, your first-degree relatives may also have aphantasia. Indicating a possible genetic or hereditary link.
Aphantasia is both a congenital and developmental condition. For those with congenital aphantasia, there is no known “cure”. Some people with acquired aphantasia, however, have described experiences of regaining imagery abilities through interventions like psychedelics. Important to note, aphantasia is not a disability but rather a unique variation in human experience with its own pluses and minuses. Many people with congenital aphantasia don’t want “a cure”.
There’s been great research into aphantasia spanning many disciples from neuroscience to psychology, cognitive science, and more. And interest is growing! The original paper coining the term “aphantasia” scores in the top percentile of new research interest on Almetric.
About Aphantasia Network
Our founder, Tom Ebeyer was among the first 21 reported cases of ‘congenital aphantasia’ mentioned in the original scientific paper by Dr. Adam Zeman in 2015. The paper was picked up by media outlets, including the New York Times, which led to an outpouring of new discoverers who also identified with having aphantasia.
Tom quickly realized there was no available support or information for people with a ‘blind mind’s eye,’ so he began building the foundations for a Network. Tom’s story was picked up by CBC’s Doc Project in 2019, and the episode Think of a Horse aired several times across Canada on CBC Radio.
In January of 2019, interest in extreme imagination, aphantasia and it’s opposite hyperphantasia, or extremely vivid mental imagery, grew considerably when Ed Catmull, founder and former CEO of Pixar with Steve Jobs, was profiled on BBC News as also being ‘blind in the mind’s eye’.
In a surprising survey of Ed’s former employees, Catmull discovered so too do some of the world’s best Disney animators like Glen Keane, the creator of The Little Mermaid. Since the discovery of aphantasia, media attention has been growing steadily including receiving a mention in the Netflix original series, Space Force with Steve Carell. Dr. Zeman’s original paper now scores in the top 5% of all research interests on Altmetric.
It became apparent to co-founders of the Network, Tom and Jennie that people across the spectrum of imagination needed a place to discover and learn about this unique variation in human experience. The pair began building Aphantasia Network in September 2019.
Since launch, the Network has grown beyond their imagination. Even if Tom could picture it! Aphantasia Network is now the #1 place for discovering aphantasia, or image-free thinking, a variation in human experience impacting more than 3% of people worldwide.
✅ Join a global community of image-free thinkers and those curious about aphantasia.
✅ Get exclusive access to members-only content and media.
✅ Connect with others in the aphantasia community through our 24/7 Discord text/chat app.
✅ Find aphantasics near you and communicate across languages.
✅ Get your questions answered by the experts during our Ask Me Anything events.
✅ Attend regular member meetups in our virtual community space.
✅ Join us live for Presentations on new research and discoveries.
✅ Participate in new research exploring imagery extremes, aphantasia and hyperphantasia.
✅ Receive discounts on merch and other membership perks.
✅ Enjoy ad-free browsing experience on aphantasia.com.
✅ Support the development of Aphantasia Network financially.
Remember all those cool websites you used that were free, but then they shut down and now don’t exist anymore? It’s because free apps don’t make money and therefore can’t survive.
Aphantasia Network is NOT a venture-funded startup. It’s 100% bootstrapped! Until now, it’s been a labour of love and funded entirely by our two Founders.
That means we don’t have any external funding. In fact, funding for aphantasia has been quite difficult to find, whether you’re a social enterprise or looking to find support for new research.
This is because aphantasia is NOT a registered disability. This means that in order for the Aphantasia Network to be a strong advocate for new research and science funding, and remain a leader in aphantasia awareness, support, community and education, we need to rely on the generous support of our growing community.
If you want Aphantasia Network to survive and grow and remain THE discovery place for understanding aphantasia, please support it by becoming a paid member.
“Like a service? Make them charge you” – Maciej from Pinboard.
A good full-stack developer is paid $150,000+. Add a research team, content writers, designers and some marketing people and a normal VC-funded startup has over $1,000,000/yr in labor costs.
At present, hosting and bandwidth are relatively cheap but still gets to $2,600/yr, including backup storage and backup servers. To make the site fast, host surveys, and enable other web features, we pay over $2,500/yr to Cloudflare, Gravity Forms and other service providers.
We would like to get to a place where we can hire for the roles needed above as well as staff to moderate the chat and provide customer support to help with our always full inbox. Maintaining our email list is not free. It costs over $2,500/yr, and that number is growing fast as more people discover aphantasia.
That means Aphantasia Network would not be able to exist without paid membership.
Yes, we would love to help and have quite a larger research pool of citizen scientists! We charge a minimum of $500 USD/campaign. On average, we receive 3000 k opens and over 1000 participants from our email campaigns. Learn more about how we can collaborate on your next research study.
Sure! You can use any resource on the site and make screenshots of Aphantasia Network as long as you reference us as “Aphantasia Network” (with space in between) and link back! Thanks 🙂
If you’re interested in sharing your story or new discovery about aphantaisa and getting published on Aphantasia Network, send us a story concept today. We’re always for new and different perspectives that can help people better understand the aphantasia experience.
Our founder Tom Ebeyer is available for interview. Please email [email protected] for any media inquiries.
In this section you can find answers to the most frequently asked questions about membership. You can manage almost everything by yourself including changing your credit card info, cancelling your membership or referring others to join to receive a discount on your membership. Read more below.
Upon signing up as a member, you should receive an email with an invitation to join our Discord community. Click on the link in this email. If you haven’t used Discord before, you will need to create a new account to access our community space.
Can’t find the email with the invitation? Login to your membership account page at aphantasia.memberful.com, then select Discord from the the main menu.
Sure! You can do so here: aphantasia.memberful.com.
Yes, you can manage all your membership settings from aphantasia.memberful.com.
Don’t know which email or username you used? Search for emails you got from Aphantasia Network before. You can also select the lost password option and follow the prompts at aphantasia.com/login/
Not getting any log in emails or don’t have access to this email anymore so you can’t receive login emails? Send us an email at [email protected] and we can help!
Once the app is fully installed, tap on the app icon to launch the app!
If this is your first time using Discord, press Register to create your account! You’ll need to enter:
- A username
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Once you’ve finished entering this account information, you can then press “Create an account” to start using Discord!
If you’ve already created an account previously on another platform or device, you can directly login to your account by pressing “Login” and entering your email address and password.
Yes you can! Refer others to join us and receive exclusive discounts. From your membership account page, select “referrals” to get your unique link. Share this link with others to receive discounts on your membership.
- 1 referral = 5% off recurring
- 3 referrals = 10% off recurring
- 10 referrals = 20% off recurring
- 100 referrals = 100% off for life!