How are we able to visualize our thoughts?


How are we able to visualize our thoughts?

In: Biology

Well, first off, some people can’t. uh, I forget the name for that. But everyone is somewhere on the scale of how good our imagination is.

Imagination is essentially a virtual machine inside our head. We can simulate whatever we want. For some people, that virtual machine is completely disconnected from the visual or auditory parts of the brain. They simply can’t see what they imagine. Picturing it in their head, they get no visual feedback. For others, they can imagine things a little too well and/or can’t control it and they suffer hallucinations.

For me, I get a sort of overlay. I don’t stop seeing what eyeballs tell me is there, but I can trick the brain into expecting what should be there.

At a lower level, there are electro-chemical signals in your head that match the pattern of what you see. Like a literal 2D display of the visual signal in your head… but not really occupying a flat surface. More like a scattered bunch of neurons. But those neurons, or neurons before or after them in the workflow, are connected to the neurons that are in charge of imagination. Or they’re not connected or are adjusted so that signal is very weak.

There is a part of your brain that translates what your eyes see into signals your brain can understand. It’s called the Visual Cortex. When you visualize something, a different part of your brain tells that part of your brain (the Visual Cortex) to send similar signals. Think of it as sort of side door into a hallway between your eyes and brain.

Its my understanding that there are two main brain types Lexicoder brains and Opticoder brains. A Lexicoder brain relies primarily on verbal communication and words for thought where as an Opticoder brain relies primarily on sight and images in one’s imagination. It is possible to be some combination of the two, but if you think in terms of words you are Lexicode dominant and if you think in terms of images you are Opticode dominant.

Your brain bases the images that form in your brain on your previous experiences. It can combine them in new ways to simulate experiences.

The zones of your brain responsible for different types of perception (visual, auditory, smell, emotions) fire up and together they can simulate an experience that almost seems real if you focus on it enough. It’s also how dreams work

There are theories that you can’t ever imagine a thing that isn’t based on what you’ve experienced before. An easy example is to try and picture a new color. Doesn’t work. Unless you’ve experienced a thing before, you can’t imagine it. You can base yourself off of what you’ve experienced in the past and modify it, but you basically never invent things from scratch. Your brain is just a big mixing vat but nothing is created.

We know that during abstract thinking the frontal neocortex is actively engaged, what it is doing from a mechanical/electrical perspective is something science is still figuring out. The ability to form abstract thoughts is the keystone of being able to ‘visualize’ and visualization is fundamentally linked to the ability to process language. We can actually *see* letters in our brain because of an interesting feature of our brain called the ‘letter box’ which is not in Broca’s area as some people mention. It is further back in the brain near the visual cortex, which may explain why the human brain is adept at ‘visualizing’ things. Operating and interpreting signals from the eyes is a very energy and resource intensive task, so the letter box can be thought of in simple terms as a re-use of brain circuits typically used for regular sight, but over the evolutionary span are now used for recognizing letters the moment you see them. If you are familiar with de-coding offload (where a signal is decoded in an actual circuit rather than with software) it is similar to that idea.