What is imagination and what is an actual vision? Researchers may have taken a step closer to understanding how our brain works when imagining visuals. In a study, published in the journal Current Biology, researchers found that the brain uses similar visual areas for mental imagery and vision. However, in the case of mental imagery, the brain uses low-level visual areas in a less precise manner.
The researchers were attempting to understand the association between vision and mental imagery. Specifically, they were looking for how the two are different. They used an MRI to pinpoint the areas of the brain which are activated in either activity. Volunteers were shown images on a screen while inside an MRI. In between, they were also asked to imagine images.
The researchers later analyzed the MRI images to pinpoint parts of the brain that were activated or became quiet during the activity. The results were compared to a computer model. The functioning in these two cases was remarkably similar.
The brain area activated in both cases fell between the retina and the primary visual cortex. However, the activation is less precise in case of mental imagery. The brain activity was largely the same in the area beyond the primary visual cortex. The less precise nature of brain activity in case of mental imagery is probably why our imagination lacks details and can be blurry or fuzzy, hypothesized the researchers.