Does aphantasia affect your memory

People who cannot see things in their head could also have memory problems

Not everyone can see images in their head when they close their eyes and evoke thoughts - a skill many of us take for granted.

Although people have known this phenomenon since the 19th century, it has not been extensively studied and has only recently been called "aphantasia". It is believed that 2-5 percent of the population experience this lack of voluntarily generated mental visual images.

Recent studies suggest that aphantasia is actually one defect of visual images rather than the lack of awareness having internal visual imagery - with some people losing this ability after injury.

© Paula Daniëlse / Moment / Getty Images

Now, new research has shown that aphantasias have other cognitive differences as well.

"We found that aphantasia is not only associated with a lack of visual images, but also with a widespread pattern of changes in other important cognitive processes," said cognitive neuroscientist Alexei Dawes of the University of New South Wales, Australia (UNSW Sydney) .

Dawes and colleagues asked 667 people (267 of whom had identified themselves as aphantasia) a series of eight questionnaires about visualization, memory, dreaming, and responding to trauma.

This included the questionnaire on the vibrancy of visual images - a version of which is available here on The Aphantasia Network - in which participants were asked to rate the degree of vividness of memories using one of the following: that I I remember the memory “to five:” as vivid as normal vision “.

“People with aphantasia have reported a decreased ability to remember the past, imagine the future, and even dream. This suggests that visual images could play a key role in memory processes, ”said Dawes.

Not only did aphantasies dream less, their dreams were also less vivid and had fewer sensory details.

"This suggests that any cognitive function that involves a sensory visual component - be it voluntary or involuntary - is likely to be reduced in aphantasies," said cognitive neuroscientist Joel Pearson, director of the UNSW Future Minds Lab.

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Some of those with aphantasia also reported decreased imagination with other senses.

“Our data also showed that individuals with aphantasia report not only being unable to visualize, but also, on average, comparatively reduced images in all other sensory modalities, including auditory, tactile, kinesthetic, gustatory, olfactory, and emotional Art, ”the team wrote in their newspaper.

This supports personal accounts of aphantasics examining their own experiences with aphantasias. The aphantasiker Alan Kendle shares the moment when he realized that other people, unlike him, can hear music in their minds.

"I couldn't understand it at first, the ability to play music in my head was exceptional - almost like a magic trick on television," he wrote.

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This might look like a GIF, but it isn't.

Believe it or not, the horizontal lines are perfectly parallel!

Do you also see a hole that derives colors from the picture?

Fancy a stroll through this checkered wall tunnel?

Relax, the cylinder won't turn you over!

How did two prongs of the fork turn into three ends?

It's a frame in a frame in a frame!

These zigzag spinners are getting out of hand.

Can you see the "star" attraction between the stripes?

Again, don't trust your brain. The circles don't move!

Counting the number of squares in a picture has never been so difficult!

In this room of surprises, the wall moves and the column rotates.

Patterned cheerios floating in the air?

These patterns may not rotate in the same direction for everyone!

Are these two balls on a never-ending downward spiral?

This swirling pattern is actually motionless.

Rest assured, this image is flat as a pancake.

Is that a blooming colorful flower?

Splashes of color that mess your brain.

Concentric circles or a spiral? This illusion will make you take a double shot!

Another set of spinning circles that will blow your mind.

Left or right? You could leave these arrows in a knot.

Look carefully, there is a flower sticking out of the center.

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But not all people with visual aphantasy lacked their other sensory conceptions, which suggests variations in this way of experiencing our inner mind.

The researchers note that their study relied on self-reporting, so their results may be influenced by response bias, where people who identify in one way answer questions based on how they think they do.

However, other aspects of the results suggest that self-reporting may not significantly affect the results: there were differences in responses associated with data suggesting that spatial capabilities - the ability to map relationships and distances between objects - were among the Volunteers don't seem to be affected.

“We're just beginning to learn how radically different the inner worlds are of people without images,” Dawes concluded.

This research was published in Scientific reports.