what exactly happens when we imagine stuff ?

John Booth john.booth at lincoln.ox.ac.uk
Sun Feb 20 18:38:00 EST 2000

[As you seem to know, it is presumed that memory traces (the building blocks
of the imagination) are laid down  in the relevant area of sensory cortex
(i.e. visual memory in V1 etc) and possibly additionally in 'association'
cortex also (allowing access of a particular memory in response to stimuli
of several different modalities).]

The first question I ask you is that when you are 'imagining' something, can
you honestly say that you can follow the thought like a video clip running
in your mind, in the same way as we continually view the world around us? If
different memory traces were truly integrated before appreciated by
consciousness, this is what you would expect . As it is, imagination (as I
know it anyway) is fairly incoherent and 'patchy'.

The anatomy of the brain suggests against specific memory traces being
'pulled out' and integrated in a specialised 'imagination zone' of the
cortex. What is more likely is that each memory element of an 'imagination'
must be independently accessed in its relevant area of cortex; when the
memory trace is accessed, this is transferred to consciousness.

The human mind is notoriously incapable of focussing consciousness on more
than one subject at once (Excellent examples are provided by the optical
illusions where, for instance, one can see two faces OR a candlestick, but
NEVER BOTH). I put it to you, then, that the process of imagination involves
selection of the relevant constituent memory traces of the thought in the
appropriate areas of cortex, followed by a rapid scanning motion of
consciousness between the different thought elements, in the same way as
you're eyes scan back and forth over a large object that is too big to
appreciate all at once. By this theory, the elements of a thought are never
truly integrated, but by scanning rapidly between the different
constituents, the overall appreciation is of unity.

For example, if you were to imagine going for a swim in a goldfish pond, by
my theory the thoughts of swimming and a goldfish pond would appear in
consciousness independently, but by flicking rapidly between the two, they
can be 'integrated' and appreciated as one continuous thought, to the best
of the  brain's ability.

I hope you've found this interesting/ satisfactory. Feel free to suggest any
flaws etc

John Booth

ashwin kelkar <ashwin_k18 at my-deja.com> wrote in message
news:88oj3t$7g5$1 at nnrp1.deja.com...
> what is the exact process when anyone imagines stuff ? i know the end
> product would be stimulation of the respective cortices for the senses
> whose stimuli we imagine. but i am talking about just imagination,
> recombination of ideas which are already in the brain how is this done ?
> Sent via Deja.com http://www.deja.com/
> Before you buy.

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