Aphantasia may be associated with more cognitive functions than previously thought – News-Medical.Net

If your mind was entirely blank and you couldnt envision anything, then you may be one of the 2-5 per cent of individuals who have aphantasia, a condition that involves an absence of all mental visual images.

Its big above the horizon, spreading an orange-pink glow throughout the sky. Seagulls are flying overhead and your toes are in the sand.

Aphantasia challenges some of our many standard presumptions about the human mind. Most of us assume visual images is something everyone has, something fundamental to the method we move and see through the world. What does having a blind mind suggest for the psychological journeys we take every day when we envision, remember, feel and dream?”

Lots of people will have had the ability to envision the sunset clearly and clearly – almost like seeing the real thing. For others, the image would have been unclear and short lived, but still there.

Evaluated by Emily Henderson, B.Sc.Jun 23 2020
Picture the sun setting over the ocean.

Mr Alexei Dawes, PhD Candidate in the UNSW School of Psychology

” We found that aphantasia isnt just connected with missing visual imagery, but likewise with a widespread pattern of modifications to other important cognitive processes,” he states.

Mr Dawes was the lead author on a brand-new aphantasia research study, released in Scientific Reports. It surveyed over 250 individuals who self-identified as having aphantasia, making it among the biggest research studies on aphantasia yet.

For instance, individuals were asked to keep in mind a scene from their life and rate the intensity utilizing a five-point scale, with one indicating “No image at all, I just understand that I am remembering the memory”, and 5 suggesting “Perfectly clear and as vibrant as regular vision”.

” People with aphantasia reported a minimized ability to remember the past, envision the future, and even dream.”

Research study individuals finished a series of surveys on subjects like images strength and memory. The outcomes were compared with reactions from 400 individuals spread throughout 2 independent control groups.

” Were only simply starting to learn how drastically different the internal worlds of those without imagery are.”

” Our information revealed a prolonged cognitive finger print of aphantasia identified by changes to images, memory, and dreaming,” states Mr Dawes.

Subsets of aphantasia

However, 26 percent of aphantasic research study participants reported a more comprehensive lack of multi-sensory images – consisting of picturing noise, touch, movement, taste, emotion and odor.

While people with aphantasia would not have had the ability to imagine the image of the sunset pointed out above, lots of might have pictured the sensation of sand between their toes, or the noise of the seagulls and the waves crashing in.

” This is the very first clinical data we have revealing that potential subtypes of aphantasia exist,” states Professor Joel Pearson, senior author on the paper and Director of UNSW Sciences Future Minds Lab.

” The reported spatial capabilities of aphantasics were on par with the control groups throughout many kinds of cognitive procedures,” says Mr Dawes. “This included when imagining new scenes, throughout spatial memory or navigation, and even when dreaming.”

In action, spatial cognition might be playing Tetris and thinking of how a particular shape would suit the existing design, or remembering how to navigate from A to B when driving.

Surprisingly, spatial imagery – the ability to imagine distance or locational relationship between things – was the only kind of sensory images that had no considerable changes across people and aphantasics who might imagine.

In memories and dreams

” Our work is the very first to reveal that aphantasic individuals likewise show a minimized capability to keep in mind the past and possibility into the future,” states Mr Dawes. “This suggests that visual images might play an essential role in memory processes.”

” This recommends that any cognitive function including a sensory visual component – be it uncontrolled or voluntary – is likely to be reduced in aphantasia.”

While envisioning a sunset is a voluntary action, uncontrolled types of cognition – like dreaming – were also found to occur less in individuals with aphantasia.

” Aphantasics reported dreaming less typically, and the dreams they do report appear to be less brilliant and lower in sensory information,” states Prof Pearson.

Aphantasic people also experienced less vibrant memories of their past and reported a considerably lower ability to keep in mind past life occasions in general.

Looking ahead

Source: University of New South WalesJournal referral: Dawes, A.J., et al. (2020) A cognitive profile of multi-sensory imagery, memory and dreaming in aphantasia. Scientific Reports.

” If you are among the million Australians with aphantasia, what do you do when your yoga instructor asks you are asked to envision a white light throughout a meditation practice?” asks Mr Dawes.

The researchers note that while this study is amazing for its scope and relatively large sample size, it is based upon participants self-reports, which are subjective by nature.

Next, they plan to build on the research study by utilizing measurements that can be tested objectively, like analyzing and measuring individualss memories.
Source: University of New South WalesJournal referral: Dawes, A.J., et al. (2020) A cognitive profile of multi-sensory imagery, memory and dreaming in aphantasia. Scientific Reports. doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-65705-7.

While as much as one million Australians could have aphantasia, relatively little is understood about it – to date, there have actually been less than 10 clinical research studies on the condition.

” How do you think back on your last birthday, or envision yourself unwinding on a tropical beach while youre riding the train home? Whats it like to dream during the night without mental images, and how do you count sheep before you go to sleep?”

More research is needed to deepen our understanding of aphantasia and how it affects the lives of those who experience it.

Aphantasia challenges some of our many standard presumptions about the human mind. Most of us assume visual imagery is something everyone has, something fundamental to the way we move and see through the world. What does having a blind mind mean for the mental journeys we take every day when we think of, remember, feel and dream?”