Born Blind in the Mind's Eye: Investigating Congenital Aphantasia

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date

April 2017

Faculty Sponsor

Brian Stone


Mental imagery (activities like visualization in the mind's eye) has long been a topic of interest to cognitive psychologists, philosophers of the mind, and neuroscientists. Visualization provides a unique form of mental representation and cognitive ability. Humans vary in their ability to use mental imagery, and neurology has documented occasional case studies of brain-damaged patients who have lost the ability completely, a disability recently named Aphantasia. Only in the past two years have researchers documented humans with congenital Aphantasia, that is, those born without mental imagery. It is currently unknown how those with Aphantasia compensate or solve tasks that usually involve mental imagery. The present study uses an internet survey to measure vividness of visual imagery, control of visual imagery, and to compare different imagery modalities (auditory, tactile, kinesthetic, etc.). Participants also report on hallucinations, dreams, fantasies, hearing a voice while reading, and other experiences. This information will let us compare those with imagery to those without and better understand the mechanisms of imagery and how they relate to cognition. as well as provide the research community with a better idea of what questions to pursue regarding this new area of research.

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