Imagine reality

Just for a minute go with me and let yourself imagine a serene lake that slowly turns purple as you notice flotilla of aquatic hedgehogs that dance a minuet while the sky turns to feta cheese and is eaten by an egocentric supernova. How did that feel? Now, try this; turn your head and look to your right. Whatever you see, just stare at it, don’t judge it, don’t question it, just take it in. How did those two mental exercises feel to you? One was an exercise in imagination and the other an exercise in taking in reality. Not only do they feel qualitatively quite different new research shows that the information flow within your brain involved in each is quite different.

In the new study researchers tracked electrical activity in the brains of subjects who alternately imagined scenes or watched videos.

The results showed that when the brain is imagining there is an increase in flow of information from the parietal lobe to the occipital lobe. The parietal lobe is a higher order region of the brain whereas the occipital lobe is a lower order region. By contrast, when taking in “reality” there is a greater flow from the occipital to the parietal.

It seems from this that the direction of neural traffic has a lot to do with the function your brain is performing. The researchers think that this understanding may help us work out what is happening in the brain during sleep and also help us understand how we encode short term memory.

It is also enticing though to imagine what might happen if a neural impulse jumped the tracks and switched direction. Under these conditions could imagination become the basis for your reality? Or is that just art?

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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