Is it possible to cure Aphantasia? Neuroscience
Is it possible to “cure” Aphantasia?
“Aphantasia” is a congenital, developmental “condition” and, as such, is not treatable. Reality check: it’s been known since the original study by Sir Francis Galton, that 15% of eminent British scientists lacked internal visual imagery. Being “mind-blind” was no problem for them.
According to a poll on a site for aphantasiacs, at least 2/3rds of aphantasiacs can ‘see’ in their dreams. This is backed up by several of the reports from the scientists who came up with the term.
This implies that the majority of aphantasiacs have the capability to visualise, it just isn’t ‘wired’ together with the conscious mind.
As a low visualiser myself, I worked on this capability by practising lucid dreaming, first practising ‘creating images’ while dreaming, recording any dream memories, especially remembered visual impressions when I awoke.
I then practiced relaxation and trance techniques to go into hypnogogic states while awake and got brief visual impressions which I also talked about or wrote down.
I can now visualise while normally awake. Not easily, but it is doable.
Possibly an easier method is described as “image streaming” online, which basically involves practising verbally describing visual impressions. There is the saying about the brain, that what fires together, wires together.
So you are reinforcing and creating links between your visual processing, and your verbal processing. I think the site is selling courses or something, but you can ignore those, the how-to information is free.
Possibly that is what I was doing with the practice I did dreaming – that it was partly the talking and writing about it that reinforced the links between my thinking/verbal mind, and the visualizing parts of my mind.
Is it possible to “cure” Aphantasia? Neuroscience
I would say absolutely no way to cure aphantasia. Not until neuroscience is able to rewire the human brain. I have known about aphantasia since I was about 24 and I am now 75.
I am what is know as Total Aphantasia, meaning that I am totally unable to create any images, sounds, tastes, smells or touch within my mind.
Aphantasia appears to be a spectrum condition where the degree of Aphantasia varies by being able to visualize to differing amounts.
For me, it is totally zero. I think about 66% of aphantasia people dream in pictures … I have never had a dream in pictures.
It is very hard for me to remember my dreams but mostly they are in words and they are about trying to solve some kind of problem.
I can say I almost have never had a nightmare or dream that results in feelings of extreme fear, horror, distress, or anxiety. I can not hear music, taste, smell, or feel anything with my mind.
Friends, I have always been this way.
Face blindness is a brain disorder characterized by the inability to recognize faces. When I see a face, I am able to recognize faces as a “normal” person, thus no face blindness.
Some people are super face recognizers meaning that they can see ten high school pictures of famous people and they are able to identify those people.
I could do about one. Super face recognizers could also identify most of the baby pictures of famous people, I would get zero.
I think in words and only words. I can sing a song but it is just the words to the song coming into my consciousness. There is no real music to accompany the words.
I have a book “The Living Brain” by W. Grey Walter published in 1963. He observed the EEG alpha rhythms of “normal” people. They had prominent rhythms with eyes shut and the rhythms disappeared with eyes open.
People with persistent alpha rhythms with eyes open or shut did not have visual imagery. These people tended to be auditory, kinaesthetic, and tactile with good abstract reasoning.
Is it possible to cure Aphantasia
Note: I have a high kinaesthetic and tactile sense and I love music. Plus my whole life is based on doing things with abstract reasoning. My working career was in electronics and programming.
Another group’s had no significant EEG alpha rhythms with eyes open or shut. These people’s thinking processes are conducted almost entirely in terms of visual imagery. Looking at the percentage of each group: low visualizers (15%), high visualizers (15%), others (70%).
Of the 15% of the low visualizers, most would be in the “vague and dim” category, with only about 2% in the “no image at all” category. I am a poor speller which has been correlated to high kinaesthetic sense, but I think it has more to do with a lack of ability to see words.
In my math classes, for the first half of the classes, I would be about four or five from the top of about 20+ students because we were doing calculus in 2 and 3 dimensions.
The second half of the semester was more than 3 dimensions and I usually ended up with the top grade.
Since the other students could visualize three dimensions, they did well in the first half but really struggled with N dimensions. I had to learn the abstract reasons for everything from day one so I was ready for N dimensions.
Some other information about me: degrees in Electronics, BA Math/Psychology, and an MBA. Also on the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator, I am INTP/INTJ. Not only do I not feel at a disadvantage because of my lack of visual imagery, I like who I am.
Is it possible to cure Aphantasia?
My experience (for what it’s worth) is:
- From as far back as I can remember until my mid-30s I could not see images in my “mind’s eye”.
- From ages around 35 to the present day I can see bright, vivid images of more-or-less anything I choose by closing my eyes and imagining the item/scene/person. I can animate those images. I can increase the brightness of colors and even add the sensation of touch to the imagined items (I can reach out—not physically but in my mind’s eye—to objects and get some sense of physical sensation). Friends, I cannot ‘hear’ imagined sounds though (I’d love to be able to do that).
My story is that I’m a photographer. When I went to college in my late teens I couldn’t (and never had been able to) create or manipulate images in my mind’s eye. Nor would they randomly appear when resting.
Friends, I found it astoundingly frustrating that my contemporaries on my course appeared to do this with ease: they even claimed to be able to move lights, models, and props as if they were real.
I thought little of this—accepting that I was just someone who couldn’t see images in my mind’s eye. I never considered seeing a physician to get my ‘condition’ classified or seek a cure.
Then, when I was in my mid-30s, I attended an NLP Practitioners’ course in London. One of the Tutors was a personal development coach by the name of Michael Neill.
During one session he asked of the audience, “Who can’t see images in their mind’s eye?” Dozens of hands when up – I wasn’t unusual after all!
Is it possible to cure Aphantasia?
Mr Neill invited a member of the audience to go up to the stage and started to explain and teach a technique he called ‘Image Streaming’. He cited Win Wenger, PhD as the author.
As soon as possible I began to practice the technique. Within days I began to ‘see’ images—dim and vague at first. The more I practiced, the brighter the images became.
After a few months of daily practice, I had become so good at creating and manipulating images that I was no longer motivated to practice the technique.
I still have the ability to see images in my mind’s eye today—I dream too (which I wasn’t aware of ever doing prior to this).
Friends, I would genuinely love to hear from people who try this. I am not qualified to say whether I ‘was’ Aphantasic; nor, therefore, whether I have been cured.
All I know is – I couldn’t. And now I can!