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Aphantasia: The Mysterious Spectrum of the Visualisation of the Mind



Hyperphantasia, in which people are able to produce vivid mental images, and aphantasia, in which people are unable to produce any visual imagery, are examples of different visualization abilities.

The connection between perception and mental imagery in people on this spectrum was the subject of a study. While aphantasics precisely see components of the real world and show no deficiencies in memory or language handling, they might have a slight imperfection in marvelous cognizance, forestalling the change of visual data into visual mental pictures.

This understanding makes ready for expected medicines for conditions like PTSD, portrayed by nosy mental symbolism.

Important Information:

Aphantasics are able to mentally visualize things but cannot describe things or people they know.

Aphantasia sufferers may use non-visual cognitive strategies because they are able to perceive aspects of reality and recall what they have seen.

The research done by the Paris Brain Institute is a first step toward understanding and possibly treating conditions like PTSD and visualization deficits.

Congenital aphantasia sufferers (i.e., not because of a stroke, brain injury, or mental illness—discover their uniqueness relatively late in life. In point of fact, they are not harmed in any way by this minor visual impairment, and there is no reason to believe that they are atypical. They are also unaware that hyperphantasic individuals exist at the other end of the spectrum, able to produce mental images as precise as book illustrations.

“Talking to these people is fascinating. We tend to think that access to visual perception, conceptualization, and memory is the same for everyone. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Paolo Bartolomeo, neurologist and researcher at Paris Brain Institute, says.

“Aphantasics cannot mentally picture what their parents, friends, or partner look like when they are away. But they can still describe the physical characteristics of their loved ones: this visual information has been stored, in one way or another”.

The question of visual mental imagery

The origin of aphantasia is the subject of a heated debate at the moment. Is it connected to a problem with perception? Psychological and emotional factors? Having trouble getting to one’s feelings?

To respond to this inquiry, Paolo Bartolomeo and Jianghao Liu, a doctoral understudy in the “Neurophysiology and Useful Neuroimaging” group at Paris Mind Establishment, selected 117 workers — including 44 aphantasics, 31 hyperphantasics and 42 individuals with commonplace mental symbolism — and gave them a psychological symbolism and visual discernment test.

“Our test, called the Imagination Perception Battery (BIP), is designed to assess the link between perception and mental imagery through the different visual qualities that enable a scene to be described—such as shape, color, position in space, presence of words or faces”, Jianghao Liu explains.

A blank screen was shown to the participants. At the same time, an off-screen voice said a visual quality like “shape,” followed by two words like “beaver” and “fox,” which were concepts they had to visualize as accurately as possible. They were also given a qualifier by the voice, such as “long”; then, at that point, the members were approached to conclude which of the beaver or fox best paired the sobriquet ‘long’.

Respondents were asked to rate the quality of the mental image they had created from the description, as well as the speed and relevance of their responses.

In the end, they had to take a visual perception test with the following stimuli: The long fox was shown to the participants as an image with an audio description, so they didn’t have to imagine it.

At the point when creative mind takes as much time as necessary

“Our results indicate that the performance of people with aphantasia is equivalent to other groups in terms of perception and the ability to associate a concept with its representation,” Liu comments.

“With one exception! Aphantasics are, on average, slower than hyperphantasics and typical imagers when it comes to processing visual information, particularly shapes and colors. They also have little confidence in the accuracy of their answers”.

Studies in the past have demonstrated that aphantasics respond to questions requiring the manipulation of abstract concepts just as quickly as other people. As a result, they only experience a delay in processing visual information. What is the explanation for this phenomenon?

“Members in the aphantasic bunch see components of reality precisely and show no shortfalls in memory and language handling. They have what we call a small flaw in phenomenal consciousness, in our opinion.

“This means that they have access to information about shapes, colors, and spatial relationships—but that this visual information does not translate into a visual mental image in conscious experience”, Bartolomeo says.

“This peculiarity is probably compensated by other cognitive strategies, such as mental lists of visual characteristics, which allow aphantasics to remember everything they have seen.”

The eventual fate of insight

These fundamental outcomes are restricted by the information assortment technique, which comprised of a web-based poll. However, they put us on a promising path toward comprehending the operation of visual mental imagery. Future examinations could uncover the brain components fundamental these perceptions and, at last, assist us with understanding the representation deficiencies intended for stroke patients.

“We also hope to develop interventional tools for certain psychiatric illnesses, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is characterized by the eruption of images from traumatic memories. If we could rid patients of these intrusive mental images, it would greatly promote their recovery”, Liu concludes.

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