Neuroscientists watch imagination happening in the brain.
A team from Brigham Young University have devised experiments using MRI technology that help them distinguish pure imagination from related processes like remembering. The team wanted to investigate how memory and imagination work together.
There has always been a scientific debate over whether memory and imagination truly are distinct processes. So the team devised MRI experiments to put it to the test. They queried whether memory and imagination are separate or if imagination is just taking past memories and combining them in different ways to form something a person has never experienced before.
They asked study participants to provide 60 personal photographs for the ‘remember’ section of the experiment. Participants also filled out a questionnaire beforehand to determine which scenarios would be unfamiliar to them and thus a better fit for the ‘imagine’ section.
The researchers then showed people their own photographs during an MRI session to elicit brain activity that is strictly memory-based. A statistical analysis revealed distinctive patterns for memory and imagination.
The researchers were able to see the distinctions even in those small regions of the hippocampus, noting a clear definition between the two tasks in the small brain region.
The current study will have connotations in future group neuroimaging studies to evaluate individuals at risk of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia.
Source: The Brigham Young University