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Or clear crystal with yellow wildflowers. Kosslyn Mental Images and the Brain. Visual perception, and visual mental imagery, might share underlying, common brain mechanisms, but they are not identical processes. People like me. This term was coined by Prof. Zeman, at the University of Exeter. Many people might rely almost exclusively on mental images to process information day to day, so they might not be able to imagine how to survive without them. There are also cognitive tests, like this mental rotation task.

Ultimately, these cognitive tasks, combined with brain imaging, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging fMRI , will give us more neuroscientific insights into why our inner perceptions can be so different. Zeman and other researchers published a very interesting case study of a man who used to have mentally imagery, but then lost it after a surgery.

They found that this man used his posterior visual networks less than subjects who could produce mental images, when they were all asked to imagine the faces of famous people when provided with their names. Instead, this person activated more of his frontal cortical networks, suggesting that he was using non-visual ways to solve the task. Even though all of our brain structures will be similar, our genetics and past experiences will impact our mental representations as well as our functional neural networks. And god please let this end. I so sharply remembered throwing it out.

And thus enticing. To grow up female is to internalize that shame, feed it, live with it, let it grow in your belly and sternum and proliferate in your lungs. The gap, widening. These days we say most things are normal, so long as they are not directly harmful to others. Children will explore sexuality long before they know what it is. A nebulous fear of men that persisted well into adulthood, perhaps. The longing for attention, the recoil when it came. An uncomfortable laugh. The persistent, quiet revulsion at the thought of my own body, its many vulnerabilities.

Translation Beyond Metaphor. In so many scenes the details have been lost. What is the difference between describing and imagining? If I say I was in a forest with dappled light am I supposed to see the forest? I can describe to you how a few months ago I was leaning against an enormous, primeval-looking log, about twenty feet off the trail and a little ways up, and he was standing in front of me, and there was moss all around us, and I touched his cheek and I pulled him nearer and dared him to fuck me right there.

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And I can describe the next moment, when a couple and their small child walked by and we sprang apart, a little embarrassed and a little exhilarated, laughing. But I do not see this. I feel the forest but that is not it, either. I know what a forest is: I know. It is a fact and I feel it. When I call up a memory I feel it in a very specific place in the back of my rib cage, behind my right lung. I do not see it. This is also, curiously enough, the place I feel brain-freezes when eating ice cream.

The sky was pink and orange and endless and I did not want to leave. The mountains, the ocean: I knew their absence would haunt me. The English word comes from the Old French imaginacion , which meant concept, mental picture, or hallucination, from the Latin imaginari , to picture to oneself. In most European languages, the word comes from the Latin. Arabic, though, has by far my favorite interpretation. Arabic, of course, is a language of poets. As a young teen I had an active imagination, in that I thought at length about plenty of scenarios that did not explicitly happen.

We could talk about how he was never specific and I was always her , direct object, outside myself, outside agency, flat character receiving the action in the story of my fake life. And then he kissed her. Or my favorite musician at a dive in his Scottish hometown. She sat down next to him and ordered a beer.

Struck up a conversation. And then he showed her the loveliest highland hills, and the whole world was green. And then it rained, and then he kissed her. This is how I imagine: If I were to meet Zac circa , where would it be? Probably LA. Probably buying self-tanner because on TV he always looks a little orange.

In fact, sometimes not seeing it makes it easier. It begins simply, with a verb. I am still this way: in love with love, with longing, with impossible odds.

Aphantasia: Is Your Mind’s Eye Blind?

Sometimes my own memory feels distant enough from me that I long for it; the men I love have almost always been far away, in some way or another. The better to tell myself stories about, the better to not be broken by. I have always lived primarily in the darkness of my head, a lost continent, a shield of mist.

No one needs to visit me there. He kissed me. The back of the room, a black wall, beside the door. This happened. I know it because I feel it: the hope, the fluttery nerves, the is this a bad idea excitement of it all. His knees take shape behind my right lung. He does not feel closer, or close enough. This is the thing people tell me about their own love stories: no matter how precious they are or were or should be, your memory warps them, your present self looking back warps them.

My memory works closer to erasure than reframing or reshaping. This is fascinating to me, the morphology of a memory, how visuals could shift and change over time. It becomes a nothing space that once held an emotion; when the emotion fades, the detail goes with it. I remember my longtime on-and-off boyfriend, who has since passed away, but I also do not remember him. I know that version of myself must have existed, but I do not remember her. This is the hardest and easiest part: when a person is gone, they are so fully gone.

I remember such small things. And the feel of the relationship at the time was some vague unwanting guilt. I do not remember my college boyfriend at all, though I have poems about him. I wrote them assuming they would inspire memories in the future. I imagine we all have these moments: this inability to connect to who we were, even when we try our hardest. Something is lost. The day I discovered aphantasia, I took a close friend out to lunch and asked her about her imagination.

She told me if she closed her eyes, it was a little like she was sitting in a small dark room, watching a projector, housed where her third eye would be. If her eyes were open, she could still visualize, and see whatever she was imagining right in front of her.

Is It Really Obvious?

Like a hallucination? I asked. When I was a teenager and took acid, I never hallucinated, though the desire for a hallucination was the explicit reason I took it. What I remember: the shag carpet squirmed like little worms and the shadows from the streetlamps played on the brick like ghosts and the falling leaves became small parachuting bodies, or suicides, depending on the mood.

The long journey home, and the mistrust: those, amplified. The crisp October air, the smell of damp autumn rot grew larger and smaller and larger again. The standing on a inch-wide ledge on the roof of the building? Well, the ground looked closer and I was euphoric as a leaf. Eventually, though, I did.

You always do, at least once. Years later, after a particularly long weekend that involved too many different varieties of drugs, I remember the next three days were full of disturbing auditory and proprioceptive flashbacks. I hid in my room. There was a fist in my mouth. I was sure I was falling, or being suffocated. I was sure someone was touching me. I was sure there was a man in my room. But when my girlfriend and I had to move to opposite sides of the US for work, we faced an obstacle that few others do.

It is the same for landscapes and sunsets, parks and rivers: when it comes to mental imagery, I am blind. He spoke then of how he attributed his academic success to an unusual way of thinking, using purely concepts with no mental imagery whatsoever. Why am I different? Could I ever train my mind to see — and would I want to?

No, I Can’t Picture That: Living Without a Mind’s Eye - Electric Literature

I began to investigate and soon discovered that science is starting to find answers. And ironically, studying people like me is helping to reveal a lot about how our brains process the things we see around us. This puzzle is used as a test for mental imagery. To begin, stare at this shape until you can remember it. Then scroll down and find three similar objects.

Which ones are rotated versions of this shape, and which are not? In , Francis Galton conducted an experiment in which people had to imagine themselves sitting at their breakfast table, and to rate the illumination, definition and colouring of the table and the objects on it. But a few individuals drew a total blank. It asks people to imagine various scenes and rate the clarity of the mental picture. Surveys show that most people have fairly vivid mental imagery; only 2 to 3 per cent report a completely image-free mind. For a long time, no one gave much thought to what caused this. We have a good idea how creating a mental image usually works.

When you see a real object, the information captured by your eyes and fed to the brain activates a pattern of neurons unique to that object: a chair has one distinct pattern, a table another. MRI brain scans show that when you imagine a picture of that object, the same neural pattern lights up, just slightly less strongly than when you are actually seeing it. The visual areas towards the back of his brain lit up in distinctive patterns as expected.

But then came an unexpected finding. He also aced other tests, such as imagining standing in his own home and counting its windows. Soon after Zeman published his results, he heard from another 21 people who said they had this condition, which he called aphantasia. However, unlike MX, they claimed to have had it from birth.