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The imagination is one of the many human qualities that we take for granted, but this new research warns that some people are not able to develop mental images.
Let’s do an experiment, close your eyes for 10 seconds and position yourself in a scene where you have been deeply happy, try to remember as many details as possible, the colors, the smells, the background sound. Ready ?, Well, now do it again, but adds to the scene a giant pink elephant. The ability to imagine and build mental images is one of the powers that we assume to be universal; from the smallest, using this skill to play the sandbox of his mind, even the adults who used to make complex abstractions that one day can become cars, buildings or technological revolutions. The imagination is essential , but not as inherent in human beings as breathing.
Adam Zemar, Professor of Cognitive Neurology at the University Medical School in Exeter, has found that this quality is not as universal as we thought , and if it is true that for many the imagination is natural, there are some people are unable to imagine , ie, can not see with the eyes of the mind. Interestingly, this finding is not new, as in 1880, Sir Francis Galton would postulate that about 2.5% of the world population does not have the ability to imagine , however, it had gone unnoticed until now.
The imagination is a neurological process complex neural networks involving watered throughout the brain, essentially building a mental image requires the occipital, temporal, parietal and frontal brain regions, using cognitive processes such as memory and display to give shape and meaning to the figure. Previous research has found that some damage to these brain areas can affect the display of images, in general it is believed that the loss of this quality was a result of an accident or pathological condition, but by chance, it seems that some people are born with what the authors have called Afantasia .
The story begins with the publication of an article by Professor Zemer in referring to the loss of mental capacity display in adult populations who they had suffered cardio-vascular accidents to his surprise, 21 people contacted him months after publication, claiming that their life experiences were very similar to those that the teacher expounded in his article, with a small difference, these so people had been lifelong , in other words, were born with the condition. This aroused the curiosity of the professor and his team who immediately began to survey these individuals and record their life experiences.
The importance of imagination
At first sight, this work just put on the table the condition that affects a limited number of people, but actually helps to explore the importance and scope of imagination in the lives of human beings. The work entitled Lives without imagery – congenital aphantasia addresses the consequences of living with this condition. Study participants widely discussed the difficulty of living in a world that assumes the power to visualize and the suffering it causes them, one participant explained by example how difficult it is for him, as an avid reader, no power enjoy literary works with vivid and rich descriptions, for him they are just words on paper.
If we add to this that imagination form a fundamental part of the game child, which is the main means of socializing with other children, we can begin to get an idea of what can be a lonely childhood without mental images; so lonely that these children do not even have an imaginary friend. Another example is the use of visualization as a therapeutic tool, many humanists and cognitive-behavioral techniques used visualization to promote changes in the individual, but in the case of these people is like asking someone without arms to climb a mountain improve your fitness.
To Zemel and participants of this work, recognize the existence of this phenomenon is a step in the right direction , make outgoing understudied condition offers tools to adapt to society and provide a healthier environment for these people who can now put a name to her condition and others to explain the concept of “where you see yourself in five years” they are completely and utterly strange space.
August 29, 2015
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