An ibis as "seen" by a machine, 2015. This processed image, which is based on a photograph by Dr. Zachi Evenor, is courtesy of software engineer Guenther Noack, 2015, and is reproduced from Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 4.0). Credit: Dr. Guenther Noack, 2015, reproduced from Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 4.0).
July 11, 2020 (MedicalXpress) -- The brain uses similar visual areas for mental imagery and vision, but it uses low-level visual areas less precisely with mental imagery than with vision, researchers report in Current Biology.
These findings by Medical University of South Carolina researchers add knowledge to the field by refining methods to study mental imagery and vision. In the long-term, it could have applications for mental health disorders affecting mental imagery, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. One symptom of PTSD is intrusive visual reminders of a traumatic event. If the neural function behind these intrusive thoughts can be better understood, better treatments for PTSD could perhaps be developed.
The study was conducted by an MUSC research team led by Thomas P. Naselaris, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Neuroscience. The findings by the Naselaris team help answer an age-old question about the relationship between mental imagery and vision.
"We know mental imagery is in some ways very similar to vision, but it can't be exactly identical," explained Naselaris. "We wanted to know specifically in which ways it was different."