The mind’s eye is what allows us to imagine things: we remember a sunset, and we can recreate it in our mind and enjoy that vision again. It also allows us to count sheep to fall asleep.
However, there are many people who cannot daydream because of this disability: living a life without even being able to imagine Peter Pan diminishes the ability to daydream and remember.
The mind’s eye is our particular factory of mental images: it allows us to visually perceive an object or scene, even though it is not present to the senses at that moment.
The mind’s eye is based on the reactions of two specific brain regions, the lateral geniculate nucleus and the primary visual cortex: both are activated when we enjoy mental images, according to one study of the year 2002.
Another detail: functional brain imaging studies have also shown that visual perception and mental images share common neural substrates.
According to Professor Rick Statesman, author of the work DMT: The Spirit Molecule, the pineal gland, which regulates sleep patterns, could also be involved in the mind’s eye.
It is generally thought that the biological basis of mental images is found in the deepest parts of the brain, where the center of perception exists.
Something innate and powerful
Something innate and powerful For most people, mental images are an innate feature of many internal experiences and play a critical role in supporting core cognitive processes.
However, between 2% and 5% of the human population do not have this capacity: they cannot daydream or recreate a pleasant memory. A kind of black dots in the mind’s eye prevents them from imagining what is not in sight.
The brain regions that allow you to perceive the physical world do not work when you try to replicate reality in your mind, be it a landscape, a kiss, or the face of a loved one.
This deficiency has a name: fantasiaa, which is defined as the inability to voluntarily visualize mental images. Although its existence has been known since 1880, science has not delved much into its nature: fewer than 10 scientific articles on this condition have been published in the last 140 years.
Fantasy refers only to the inability to voluntarily generate mental images, but does not prevent sufferers from enjoying vivid dreams, albeit with worse image quality, according to another study posted last summer.
The condition of fantasy can be congenital or manifest throughout life and, according to the same study, it leaves a cognitive imprint on the brain that causes changes in the perception of images, as well as in the ability to dream and remember.
Image of a room and what a person with fantasy (in the center) can paint, compared to a person without that condition. On the right, sketches of two non-fanciful participants as they viewed the original image. Credit: University of Chicago.
Differences and virtues
Differences and virtues New research conducted at the University of Chicago, the results of which are published in the journal Cortex, sheds new light on fantasy, as explained in a release.
The research establishes clear cognitive differences between people with fantasy and people who generate mental images at will without problems.
A first difference arose when both groups were asked to draw what they had seen in a room: the drawings of people with fantasy were much simpler, they even went on to describe their memories in words, instead of images.
Researchers highlight in this regard that even people with congenital blindness can draw a room that they have never seen, but that is familiar to them.
The researchers also appreciated that people with fantasy have an intact visual memory: they were able to place the objects they had seen in the exact position without problems, although sometimes in the wrong room.
Unique mental experience
Unique mental experience They also showed an advantage over the group of people without this condition: although they remember fewer objects, people with fantasy do not create false memories.
Finally, the research found that fantasy does not affect the recognition of faces: they greet family and friends, although they cannot imagine their faces when they do not see them.
More research is still needed to understand the neurological bases offantasyy and its eventual treatment, but the researchers highlight something relevant about these people: “They have a unique mental experience that can provide essential insights into the nature of images, memory and memorPerceptionion”.
Other relevant data: according to a study from the University of Exeter, people who cannot visualize mental images are more likely to thrive in scientific and technical careers than to advance in creative fields.
QuantifyiAnastasiasia through drawing: Those without visual imagery show deficits in object but not spatial memory. Wilma A.Bainbridgeab et al. Cortex, Volume 135, February 2021, Pages 159-172. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2020.11.014
Top photo: Fantasy people do not understand what it means to “count sheep” before going to bed, because they cannot visualize sheep without seeing them. Credit: TannWouldulsplashash.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.