Aphantasia — Aphantasia — image less brain
Close your eyes and try to picture yourself walking along a sandy beach or looking at the sunrise. How clear is the image that forms into your mind? For the majority of people this is a simple task, however, for a small number of persons, it’s unimaginable. Called “aphantasia,” doctors have reported for the first time a condition where individuals can’t conjure mental images in their head, more precisely in their “mind’s eye”.
A blind mind’s eye
When visualization happens, multiple regions throughout the brain are working together to build a network that will aid regenerate images, sounds, and smells. The best theory so far is that in the people who suffer from aphantasia, somehow the links between these regions within brain are broke. This would aid to explain as well how the condition can be provoked by a major brain injury.
The first occurrence that ultimately led to indentifying aphantasia was, in fact, in a man who got it after a heart treatment. In 2005, this man went to meet Adam Zeman, a neurologist from the University of Exeter Medical School in the U.K., to talk about the unforeseen, bizarre problem. The individual, known as MX, had lost his aptitude to form mental images following the routine procedure for his heart. His “mind’s eye”, or imagination, had become totally "blind", in such a way that even his dreams didn’t contain anymore visual content.
After this case was published in the popular press, 21 persons with similar symptoms got in touch with the authors of the original paper. However, differently from the case of MX, the imagery disability in those individuals was congenital. They were actually born with their “mind’s eye” blind.
- It is believed that as many as 1 in 50 persons might suffer from aphantasia. Some state that it makes them feel either “lonely” or “isolated,” being aware of the fact that they can’t visualize stuff that most persons can. On the other hand, others have simply learnt to live with it, and consider that they just experience life in a whole different manner.
Published by Claudia Barbu