Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Can’t form a mental image? No big deal.

Discover covers a really cool Neuropsychologia article about a man, MX, who lost his ability to experience mental imagery.

Mental imagery is a divisive topic in psychology. Some (most notably Kosslyn) argue that mental images are essential to many types of cognition. According to this camp, mental images are functionally similar (but not identical to) like-modality perception (Kosslyn, 2004 summarises this view nicely). Imagining an apple and seeing an apple involve similar mechanisms. Furthermore, I can use my mental image of an apple to answer questions about its properties – is it red? is it heavier than a plum? But, many other people argue that, although we might feel like we’re using pictures in our imagination to solve various problems, the real work is done by non-depictive representations (see Pylyshyn, 2003 for a good review). When we’re asked to answer questions about an apple’s properties, we can think about what it would be like to see the apple, but this doesn’t entail that the representation is depictive, in this case, pictorial.


To be clear: The first argument depends on mental images being the medium through which we solve various problems. Mental images play a causal role in cognition. The second argument asserts that mental images may exist as a sensation (we experience feeling like we’re seeing something in our mind’s eye), but they are not the medium through which we solve problems. Both are representational accounts of cognition, so they’re both wrong (see this also). But they’re differently wrong.

So, what’s the evidence for mental images? Consider property verification tasks, where a participant is asked to decide whether a feature is true of a concept (for example: Are ears a feature of rabbits?). The stimuli for these tasks are words, not pictures. But, participants take longer to respond if they are asked to imagine a small rabbit compared to a large rabbit. The argument is that participants use visual imagery to solve this task. The difference in reaction time occurs because it’s easier to “see” a large visual image of a rabbit than a small visual image.

Other evidence comes from the mental rotation task (Shepard & Metzler, 1971). In this task, participants see two shapes, and they must decide whether the shapes are the same or different. On some of the trials, the two shapes are the same, but appear in different orientations (like and > and v). The time it takes participants to perform this task depends on the size of the difference in orientation. They are pretty fast to recognize that the shapes are the same given a difference of, say, 15 degrees. But, they take much longer to respond if the difference is, say, 70 degrees. The argument is that during the task participants imagine spinning one of the shapes around, so that its orientation matches the other one.

This evidence for mental imagery is indirect (no one is measuring or detecting mental images) and relies on the premise that it’s pretty difficult to think of another explanation for these results. This brings us back to MX, who lost his ability to form mental images. This patient offers a rare opportunity to see how cognition changes when this subjective feeling of mental imagery is wiped out. After undergoing surgery to unclog blocked arteries, MX reported losing his “mind’s eye.” Whereas previously he felt like he could conjure up images of people and things that were not present, now he felt like this visual element of thinking about things was completely gone.

Researchers from the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter and the University of Edinburgh ran several experiments comparing MX to matched controls on a battery of tests (Zeman, Dela Salla, Torrens, et al., 2010). First, they made sure that MX performed similarly to the controls on tests of memory and executive function. They also made sure that his visual system worked normally (e.g., MX was able to match celebrity names to faces). Finally, the researchers tested MX on tasks thought to require mental imagery, like the mental rotation task described above.

MX performed the mental rotation task with perfect accuracy. But, unlike the matched controls, the degree of rotation did not influence the time it took MX to decide if two pictures were the same. He also performed as well as control subjects on other tasks, like being able to describe visual properties of objects from memory.
So, the subjective feeling of mental imagery is not necessary for a number of tasks that many people believe require visual representation. I’d like to know how Kosslyn reacts to this. I think he might argue that MX simply lost the subjective experience of mental imagery, but the processes underlying his ability to solve these tasks remained intact. However, this view would predict that MX should perform like control subjects on all implicit imagery tasks. Thus, it wouldn’t explain MX’s unusual performance on the mental rotation task. If mental imagery does not play a causal role in cognition, then many questions remain. Primarily, we’re left wondering how to explain reaction time effects on things like property verification and mental rotation. However, difficulty accounting for these results is no reason to hang onto the idea that mental images explain anything about cognition.


Kosslyn, S. T. (2004). Mental images and the brain. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 22(3), 333-347.
doi: 10.1080/02643290442000130

Pylyshyn, Z. (2003). Return of the mental image. Are there really pictures in the brain? Trends in Cognitive Science, 7(3), 113-118.
doi:10.1016/S1364-6613(03)00003-2

Zeman, A. Z. J., Della Sala, S., Torrens L. A., et al (2010). Loss of imagery phenomenology with intact visuo-spatial task performance: A case of ‘blind imagination.’ Neuropsychologia, 48, 145-155.
doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2009.08.024

136 comments:

  1. It's a scientists dream having a patient like this.
    Poor guy though, but I find it interesting that the speed of the response is the same.

    So, what would you investigate in a subject like this?

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    1. I have never been able to "see" something in my mind's eye. When I was 12, I underwent various IQ tests because my teachers had identified me as a candidate for the gifted and talented program. The person performing the test told my mother that I could not visualize. Until then, I thought everyone was like me-- that the 'mind's eye' was a figure of speech, not a reality. I can recognize a face when I see it, but not pull up a picture in my head to describe it to someone. The same is true of objects, landscapes, etc. I can memorize a list of facts about an image (color, size, shape, etc) but never see it. To remember where a building is on a street, I would have to memorize a list of the buildings in order. I could not 'see' that it was next to such and such place. This has been more of a curiosity in my life than anything else; it did not interfere with me obtaining a Ph.D. in a scientific field.

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    2. I have the same exact issue and my parents freaked out at me because they got so frustrated at me when I couldn't imagine images in my head.

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    3. About 10 yrs ago I told my then psychogist that I could not form any mental images in my head. No faces, no objects- absolutely nothing. He had a hard time understanding what I was saying or just thought I was crazy. Never looked more into it for me like I had asked. Have never been able to do so as far back as I can remember. It didn't dawn on me until my mid 20's that other people could actually form mental images. My husband is the opposite of me- great memory and a total mental imager. Whenever I was told to visualize or to imagine something throughout my life, there has been nothing. If asked to visualize myself at the beach on a warm summer day- Could only imagine how it would make me feel- the warm sun would feel on my skin or how the sound of the waves crashing on shore relaxes me when actually there. Had a hypnotherapist try to hypnotize me once, however he was unsuccessful. Asked me to visualize things in order to relax me, didn't relax me- just another reminder that it sucks that I couldn't visualize anything. Was diagnosed with ADD in my early 20's- no doubt that i've had it since early childhood , have generalized anxiety disorder- didnt get my drivers license until i was 25 yrs old because of terrible anxiety (depth perception is horrible), and history of severe depression- which I have overcome for many years now through learning cognitive behavioral skills in therapy. Anxiety I've got a better grip on too and have been driving for almost 10 years now, just avoid parallel parking whenever I can ;) Wish there was more information out there about people like us. You would think there would be. Good to know that I'm not the only one though. You would think there would be medical professionals out there that would want to gooble this finding up and research it. Hope someday someone does.

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    4. I have had always had this and it gets extremely frustrating. My parents think I am lying about not being able to form a picture so when ever i bring it up they dismiss it. I was able to when I was small but I just lost the ability. For awhile I thought something was wrong with me but I am learning how to love without images.

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  2. I don't know exactly what I'd want to test this guy on, but I really want to know how most people solve the mental rotation task. What produces that relationship between RT and angle of orientation? Clearly, rotation isn't necessary to solve the task, and I'm suspicious that imagery plays any causal role in problem solving, so this result is pretty strange. There's a whole host of imagery-based tasks, though, that Kosslyn has been running for years. It would be great to take MX through those and compare his performance to controls, like they've done here with mental rotation.

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  3. I have problem to form mental images as well, at least subjectively. And I'm always like this since I'm a child, and noticed this when in Junior school: After closed the eyes, I cannot form an image of what just saw, seems all other people can...

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  4. That's fascinating! Do you feel like this impacts on how you approach problems or think about the world?

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    1. I also have this problem. Before about age 17, I couldn't form mental images at all, and now I can but it's very difficult.
      It's hard to say how much of a practical impact this has had on me, because this is a skill that it's not really possible to observe other people using and I've never really had it, so I don't have a sense for how I would use it. In school, highly visual subjects have been a mixed bag. I was always bad at art (though I'm also rather uncoordinated, which doesn't help), I had no trouble with geometry (compared to algebra), and in college, I did poorly in organic chemistry.
      Draw what conclusions you will.

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    2. I am a 33 yo female who can't make mental images at all and have never been able to. I find it frustrating, because it seems like it would be enjoyable. It's also used for stress reduction/relaxation, but being asked to picture something when you can't has the opposite effect. I am a "worrier," and am often tense/stressed out. I'm not sure whether there's a correlation. I would like to be able to make mental images for relaxation and meditation purposes, but aside from that, it's had no impact on my success in life.

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    3. im the same im 45 with same worry an stress problems also depression trying to search this to see why an if this a syptom or a reason for these issues

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  5. I too can't form mental images, and never have been able to. A bit of online research and forum checking reveals quite a few people who are the same. IT's always interested me, especially since I read the likes of Locke, Berkeley and Sartre at university, who discuss mental imagery quite a lot in their works. What irritates me is that there doesn't seem to be any acknowledgement of this being a genuine condition. And in answer to Sabrina's question, I've never felt it impacted on my approach to problems or the way I think about the world, because I've never known any other way.

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  6. Hi Niel,
    Yes, it would be my guess that it doesn't actually matter for cognition. It seems to me that we get carried away with the phenomenological experience of imagery and expect that it has some causal role in various tasks. Also, I think there is a tendency to ascribe to mental images greater realism than they deserve. A good example is having people imagine a bicycle and then draw what they see. People will report a very strong feeling of seeing the bicycle, but their drawings are awful. Not awful in the way you'd expect from a bunch of non-artists - the drawings completely misrepresent bicycles in terms of basic function (where do the pedals connect to the frame? where does the chain go?) So, people overestimate the fidelity of mental images. And, if mental images don't lead to accurate judgments about the real world, then they are unlikely to be essential components of important cognitive tasks.

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    1. The bicycle part is interesting. I have can't picture the thing in my head, but I have a very good handle on how its parts are put together. I think over the years I've trained myself to make very good use of spacial reasoning to makeup for lack of visualization.

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  7. It's interesting that, based on our small sample of 'people reading this blog' we found two people who report no imagery. It would be thoroughly intriguing to try and find out more rigorously what the incidence in the population is; maybe it's really common. If so, that has all kinds of interesting implications.

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    1. I agree more research should be done.I am nearly 50 and only last year realised that people can see things! I never have.When people said imagine I just thought about it and kind of had a feeling about it.Counting sheep I felt... that would be one over the fence then another , Never ever saw a sheep !It was a real shock to hear my partner could actually see things!I have asked 2 family members they see nothing.One very upset and
      thought we should stop talking about,as a relative on partners side has mental issues and see things so I thought that was part of his condition.Never in my dreams (which I get loads of(night)) did I imagine healthy people could see things too!Implications for schooling etc huge ,Can most people really see things when they want too? There seems
      be different levels too.Some can recall stuff and say they have a photographic memory.My partner has, but he can also make a ball roll down the street ,that isn't there!Help!

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  8. I'm so glad that I've found this blog as I'm also a non-imager. The discovery that it's more or less taken for granted that people create mental images came as a complete bolt out of the blue to me just a couple of years back, and it had a profound effect on me. In short I became thoroughly depressed as it felt like I'd suddenly woken up into a world full of aliens. If, as it would seem, that the majority of people see mental images, it meant that I was effectively handicapped with the lack of a 6th primary sense.
    To anyone who creates mental images as a matter of course, it would seem to be inconceivable that I could operate on any mental level without the ability. What friends find even more difficult to comprehend is that i make my living as a commercial artist and regularly create illustrations from my imagination. Whereas others might create a mental image and copy it onto paper, my first sight of the illustration is what comes from the tip of my pencil or brush.
    I can do all of the rotation of objects fairly competently, but I don't create an image to manipulate it - I just do it with my physical sight and brain power. As far as I am aware I've never had the ability to create a conscious mental image but I do seem to create images in my dreams. My feelings are, that somewhere along the way, my ability to create a conscious mental image is being suppressed so I rely on different methods which bypass the visual interface. Its almost like the difference between the way a computer handles an image file (jpeg, Tiff, raw or whatever) and the way it is presented to the human eye - to the computer the jumble of code is just as informative as the image display created from that code is to the human eye.
    So... all is rosy in the non-imagers garden then? Sadly, i don't think so. If there's one area that I really suffer, its memory, and in particular, visual memory. Putting names to faces for instance - even my loved ones. If i think of my children I don't see them in my mind. I can rationalise various elements as though reading off a written description - hair colour, approximate height etc., but there's no picture formed to accompany. Directions are another victim. I can't remember routes very well and, unless I travel the route regularly, I find it hard to recall. I have no mental visual clues to refer to when i come to junction for instance. There are lots of little things missing which others seem to take for granted.
    To the mental imager non-imaging seems to be not much of a big deal, but the ability to visualise is seen a major part of goal setting. In sport, for instance, being able to visualise yourself as part of a game plan leading to a winning position, seems to be a major deciding factor in achieving or not. Most motivational techniques involve visualising at some level, same goes for a lot of the new age methods of healing.
    In short.... Imaging would seem of little consequence to those who have it readily to hand, but for others, like myself, although I've got through my life without it, I would seriously like to have the skill. Any thoughts on how I could get it?

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    1. I am similar, though figured out when younger that i couldn't 'see' a picture in my mind, though others must be able to, especially with relaxation techniques etc. i'm not great at memory, especially people/faces, though i can recognise that i have seen the face before, but can't clue into where/when/how unless i see them regularly. I get a sense of where i am but don't know how i know i'm getting lost or on the right track. I dream in the same way i think, words, sense of things being there but very rarely picture, when it is picture, seems to be a nightmare, even if innocent picture. I can just see on the bit below, yes i googled my way here trying to find information about how i think, as it is interesting that i can't see in my mind but others can. i have discovered only a few days ago my father thinks the same way i do but mum, and pretty much everyone else i've asked think in pictures, and they can't understand that i can't see something in my mind

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    2. It is so nice to see your comments, because it is precisely how my brain works too! I dream in words and impressions. I can recognize things I've seen before, but I couldn't even pull up a mental picture of my own mother to describe her face to someone. I can list a number of facts that I have noted and mentally recorded(medium height, brown hair, brown eyes, slightly thin eyebrows, narrow nose) but I certainly cannot 'see' them. If you asked me to describe a feature for which I had not memorized a description (in words), I would be at a complete loss. I simply cannot pull up a picture to draw from.

      While I lack a mind's eye, I am extremely adept at logic puzzles. I have an excellent memory and grasp of abstract ideas and concepts. I've often wondered if the two have any relationship to one another.

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    3. u explained it well I always just thought I had tunnel vision and just didn't notice things or remember people and events thank u I never linked the two issues

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    4. Your question about logic is answered very well in this report: https://flic.kr/p/6NCtWb. I've been trying to collect information on this for some time, but recent frustrations have got me interested again. I've learned to cope for the most part, and I try to make explicit notes in my head about what I see, but there are some things I'm just not good at. That article is very insightful (and especially funny because I was doing logic puzzles this morning as I was getting ready for work).

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    5. I cannot see mental images even when i dream but when i dream its just goes by so fast and than when i wake up i somehow know whats happened. I realized when i was 10 but there had been in a way hints up till than like teachers telling me to picture it in my mind. Its always frustrated me and i have always had a bad memory and whenever i would try and concentrate really hard it would hurt... someone should really look into this cause i have always thought i was a complete freak and i have never know until now that there was anyone else who suffered from the samething i do... its often upset me and made me depressed mainly sense i realized it at such a young age it had made me alienate myself in a way from anyone else

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  9. I think people who are unable to form mental pictures found this article by googling the topic. I suffer from chronic pain. I tried to see a pain psychologist but the therapy involved visualization. I got frustrated & gave up. Now I wonder if it does effect learning and its why I do poorly on tests that involve memorizing facts.

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  10. It most definitely effects learning! being Mentally Blind is a major handicap.
    I discovered that mental images were as powerful as they are just a few years ago. I have never had any mental imagery nor have I had any dreams to my knowledge. I always thought it was funny to mess with people until they say something like "Ohh Mental Image!!" because I did not understand it.
    Since learning that I lack this ability entirely I have noticed over and over how it effects the day-to-day life of a non-imager. I have been going through memories of the past and re-analyzing them with this new info.
    It completely changes how our mind works and we usually view the world in a drastically different way. It even changes how we communicate; we use examples and comparisons to get an idea across whereas 'normal' people try to explain the 'image' of that idea.
    It is very disheartening to find so little information about this and the fact that noone is currently investigating it is stupid.
    The impact of not having any mental imagery can be extremely severe and damaging

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  11. I just was reading in a random forum today and the topic came up and got me really confused.

    I can't image things either, but I do dream. I I found this by googling, but it took awhile to find stuff. I'm still a little taken aback by this...

    I had a language learning disability as a child, I wonder if this was related?

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  12. Same with me. It is really hard for me to form mental image. I have tried and when it is like almost coming, it fades or forms into something else. Can't hold a picture. I haven't been able to remember what I have dreamed (only when I have slept couple of hours I know what I have dreamed but not the details only the idea of a dream). I can see the pig picture but not imagin it in my head. It's like my picture is somewhere deeper and I can't see it (like seeing thing from the corner of eye. I know the relationships but can not see details). I'm a college student and my memory works well. I use logic, reasoning, forming relationships and when I get the concept there forms a hazy big picture without details (I know it's there but can't imagine it. don't use rote memorization, I'm able to get the so called picture (not vivid mental image) and handle large amount of new data. But I'm awful at drawing and sometimes in trouble with orienteering. when lying in bed before falling asleep, I have tried to form image. And I have almost succeeded. They are great but they come from nowhere. But I can't form specific image and hold them. The ones that come from nowhere are in constant changing but they are great, if I could only hold them and draw them.

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  13. I also cannot form mental images and it has come as a shock to me that most people can. One of the few advantages I can think of is that I can fall asleep basically anywhere, as my mind is blank when I close my eyes. However, as previously stated in the comments, the advantages of being able to form clear mental images are profound and people do take this for granted. Since I have not experienced life in any other way, I feel my way of viewing the world is normal. I have always had success in school, and have studied for tests by reading and learning everything 3-4 days prior to the exam. I remember things by piecing what I've read together with thoughts and blurry imagess. I agree with some of the previous comments in being simply amazed that there hasn't been more research about this or methods available to help people with a blind mental eye better visualize.

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    1. yep similar again

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  14. I too cannot create or hold onto a mental image. I can recall say an event or picture but if I try to "zoom in" to flesh out the details it disappears or slips away. I also have ADD (or so they say) but this imaging issue is major to me. I can't "visualize" how things work or fit together without physically manipulating. Can't read a map without reorienting it to how I am standing/facing. Terrible working memory. Can't remember faces or names. Often not even of people I have met several times. Takes enormous amount of reinforcement and association to link faces, directions, etc. I have an IQ of >135 and a master's degree in medical science. I do have gifts but those who think this is not a handicap do not realize what an important resource this is and how hard it is to compensate for.

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  15. Looks like most people found this by googling inability to form mental images. Like most people here, I can only form blurry, vague mental images that disappear almost instantly. I'm extremely good at spatial reasoning, math, and logic. I did very well in school and am now successful in a hands-on technical job. The inability to form mental images doesn't impair your reasoning, it just means you lack a sensory imagination. Its a left-brain vs right-brain thing. Left-brain skills involve problem solving, the ability to understand & control a physical situation. Right-brain skills involve creating something in your imagination and expressing it. So lack of right-brain imagination isn't a handicap, it just makes life less enjoyable.

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  16. I too can not see mental immages unless I am dreaming. I can not picture an apple or a house. I do know what they look like, but I can not see the picture in my head. My youngest son also has it, and my 2 older do not.

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  17. I am the above poster. I allways thought I was alon in this till a few years ago. My e mail is cylithara@gmail.com if anyone does decide to do a study.

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  18. I went to a neurologist and explained to him that I can't see mental pictures, and he didn't even a address it with me. Even though I mentioned it 2 times. I feel like no one even cares enough to study it. I also do terrible on tests. I get A's on all written assignments, but then as far as a test goes I do awful. I also can not remember my children's faces as they were as toddlers. I have searched for help from Psychiatrists and Neurologists, and they all just seem to skip over the subject. Knowing now that there a a decent amount of us makes me feel like we need to make the subject known. I guess there is no money to be made in fixing us?

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  19. "I would seriously like to have the skill. Any thoughts on how I could get it? "

    I very much wish I knew. I feel just like you. The worst part is pulling up memories seems like my file system gets jammed or broke.

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  20. http://youtu.be/qpbMvXT5140

    I just wrote a very long post and somehow lost it. Here's the jist. I don't have this ability either. %0 ability. not even a little bit. I am also Bipolar. I wonder if the two are related. and if anyone knows where I can find information on this inability I would appreciate it. thanks

    Oh the above link is to a youtube vid that I was goning to do to improve my concentration but when I was asked to concentrate on a mental image I knew I couldn't and honestly didn't realize it was an ability that people actually have. Always thought it was just an expression "picture it in your mind" ???

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  21. I also can never visualise anything. EXCEPT as I'm drifting to sleep when I can visualise quite strongly, usually only partially able to control the images.

    For example if I played sudoku too much all day I might see the grid and be able to "play" in my head, but only because I'm half asleep.

    As soon as I'm fully conscious I can never picture anything in my mind, not even simple things like "a red square"

    I like another poster am terrible at following directions as well as remembering faces/names combinations.

    I also have an IQ of more than 135 like one of the above posters, but I am child like with art/music, so I wonder if that's related.

    Also I do not appreciate art and I never "listen to music" i.e I may rarely put music on in the background but I would never put music on just to listen to it.

    jameilious @ hotmail.co.uk if you want to get in touch

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  22. I also can't form mental images. I can read okay, but I can't really read-read fictions -- I can't get into it. All I see when I read are words on the paeg. I can't go anywhere. I hate it.

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  23. We did this in one of my cognitive psychology lectures. The lecturer got us to close our eyes and make a mental image of our mothers face. Out of about 200 people 3 couldn't. So it seems to be pretty common. The lecturer didnt seem all that suprised anyway

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  24. Like many of the people here, i found this blog by looking on google for the condition. Like most of the people here I can not make pictures in my mind. When I dream, I dream in words, I don't see the words, I just sort of hear them I guess. I can hear music in my head too... I don't play an insturment though.

    When I try and remember things I remember them in words, even memories. If I have to remember a pictue I just describe with lots of detail in my head

    I have trouble with rotateing images on test and with spelling. I also can't remember names and faces....

    This has been hard on me becuase I don't know anyone else who is like this. Eveyone in my family can make pictures in their mind and they sort of think that I am lieing when I say that I can't so I don't talk to them about it anymore.

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  25. I came to this blog because I was listening to a TED speaker talking about the brain, and he seemed to assume that seeing mental images was fundamental to the operation of the brain. I too can't bring up mental images, so I was disturbed by this. I have always assumed that others were like me and when people said they formed "mental images" they were speaking loosely - they didn't actually "see" a full color photograph-like image in their mind's eye - rather they formed a non-visual mental impression of the object, as I do. I am still skeptical. I do, however, :"see" images when I dream ( I think).

    I don't feel the lack of mental imagery has been a handicap to me. I am very good at visual recognition of faces, better than most. I have good spatial mental manipulation capabilities, etc. but it is more logical than visual. I graduated with honors from college, and was successful in the computer graphics field.

    I do wish I could bring up clear mental images, but I question whether many people who say they can are - not lying - but simply being imprecise. (If people can really conjure up mental images of things they've seen, then would the descriptions given by eye-witnesses be so error-prone?)

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  26. Can you link to the TED talk if you ever pop by again? :)

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  27. I also found this via Google and was surprised to stumble upon it as I've never found anything before when I've searched in the past.
    I too am a "non-imager" and became aware of this a number of years ago when attempting some visualisation exersises and realised I simply couldn't do it.

    Strange thing is, like Robb above I work as a Designer/Illustrator and have done for over 20 years quite successfully.
    Coincidence?

    It has been of quite an epiphany to me reading the experiences of the above especially regarding the way it affects others in very similar ways.

    I too find it almost impossible to read and retain information from fictional books.
    I have serious problems putting names to faces and can't visualise the faces of those near and dear.
    It is an ongoing joke regarding my inability to follow directions and getting lost.
    I find it very difficult to retain certain kinds of information and put that down to a bad memory.

    It's only now that I realise how this has affected may day to day life and has made me look at things in a very different way, although I can't visualise any of them:).

    I'd love to know more about this.

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  28. I'm thrilled to have found this blog (through google) today. I too am completely unable to visualize anything in my mind. I discovered this over the summer when I had a conversation with a friend about my inability to remember fictional books. I realized that she was able to completely visualize the entire novel, while I was lucky if I could remember the main character's name. I always was confused when people would say, "the character in the movie version did not look like what I had envisioned..." Envisioned? I couldn't even imagine how to visualize that... I close my eyes and try to visualize simple objects, or say, my husband's face, and can't. Again, like others, I can rationalize and describe what my husband's face looks (blue eyes, hook nose, smooth skin, thinner lips, in case you were wondering...), but I simply can not form a picture of him. Like others above, I have an IQ of over 135, have a 3.97 in my undergraduate degree.. (going into my MA in counselling psychology). Like others above, I struggle with remember faces that I have not encountered in a number of years (unless they were REALLY meaningful to me), I am useless at directions, and I usually do not retain information I have learnt at the end of a semester unless I believe it is really meaningful, or have memorized it.

    Like Jamie, I can dream in pictures, when drifting into the unconscious I too sometimes (although very rarely) visualize something, only when I have repeated that activity a number of times that day. Also, I do enjoy having music on in the background while I am studying and driving, but would never turn music on just to listen to it.

    My question for everyone who is unable to create mental images is this: Are you hypersensitive to noises around you? Maybe one of these conditions has nothing to do with the other, but I can hear everything around me, all the time. I can easily listen to other people's conversations while I'm on the phone, hear the ticking clocks in the room, or someone around me who happens to breath loudly. I am often unable to focus in class because of all the auditory stimulation around me (and have often resorted to ear plugs). Let me know if any of you non-visualizers are hypersensitive ears!

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    1. Kelsey I could say ditto to your post. I can not form mental images but I am very sensitive to smells and sounds. My memory is far more developed than most people I know. I can remember conversation I had years ago verbatim (my husband hate this!) I am that person you do not want to play a trivia game with! Smells and sounds will trigger thoughts.

      If I have to describe my house or husband, I can describe it in detail but it is through a sense of knowing.

      I did very well in school and rarely had to study and I graduated with honors. If I heard a lecture or a talk I had it memorized. In fact, if I did study or look over my notes I usually did poorly on the exam. I always just assumed I was an audio learner. When I had to write a paper I would usually do it the night before and would never do an outline. The words seemed to just flow out.

      I am spacial challenged. I can never pick the right size container for leftovers and if someone throws or hits an object at me 9 times out of 10 it will hit me! I stink at the tests of flatten objects or boxes.

      I love reading, I read all of the time but I can not play scrabble, wheel of fortune or hangman. I can not see words in the mixed up letters or empty space.

      Like other have said this lack of mental imaging has not really hindered me. I am considered a problem solver and a "big idea," person. I work as an IT Director and I am a Licensed Massage Therapist.

      I have meditated for 20 years and I think the lack of mental images has helped I already have a blank mind LOL! Yet, I have gone to different event and have been told to visualize and I just sit there wishing I could see a mental image.

      Tod, I am right handed and analytical and logical.

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    2. This post is so old, but Google got me here. It's a little reassuring to see so many people with the same issue as me. Can not hold a most basic image in mind for even a second.

      I'm also highly intelligent particularly linguistically, second logically (math). I love music and visual art, but am terrible at drawing, etc. (I do it anyway).

      The audio thing is equally intriguing. It always amazes me when someone is reading a book or looking at their laptop and can't hear the person talking to them until their done. I am utterly incapable of reading a sentence if someone is talking nearby. It's as if I'm just reading whatever they're saying. I'm also very emotionally stimulated be smells. Very few things anger me, but if someone farts or smells bad I become very angry. Stuff like that.

      Recognizing people is not a problem, picturing them is another story. I have no internal compass, get lost like crazy. If that's part of the imagery thing, well, it is extremely debilitating.

      Other stuff: 21 years old. Analytical, introspective, "big idea" person.

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    3. I am the same Hypersensitive to smell and sound and I have a great memory, superb logic and reasoning skills but when it comes to mental image itz all blank in there. though as Janis mentioned I am an honer collage student but I never felt the need to study or anything i remember everything I heard even once.
      But still I wish I could image things it makes me all uncomfortable when people start talking in pictures. frankly in 21 years this is the first time I had seen people who are similar to me and Gotta say It made me somewhat relieved.
      I am a right handed logical person So a typical left brained person though I have started writing with my left hand now to see if it could help buff up my right brain in some action and help me visualize things

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  29. Interesting to me that I had resigned myself to believing that my own inability to visualize was unique. My experience is somewhat like Rob, I can create anything on paper or canvas, also construct three dimensional objects without seeing them in my mind. I also do not remember having any visual dreams since I was a teen, am now approaching my 60th year. Life has been very challenging, and unfortunately still is. My thanks to all for this sharing. GK2

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  30. I see some commonality here.. I have a terrible sense of direction, I see that is common. Somebody asked about audio hypersensitivity, I have that.
    Could people include whether they are left handed or right handed. Whether they have a good sense of direction or not. Whether they have audio hypersensitivity or not. Whether they're unusually logical and analytical.
    Whether they have any short term memory issues?
    I know for example there definitely is a link between left handedness and no sense of direction, in that -some- left handers are just like me with no sense of direction.

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  31. I am ambidextrous, I have audio hyper-sensitivity, I have very good sense of direction, I ma very analytical and logical...my memory is funky and I am a _non-imager_ I think it was not too many years ago that i came to the shocking realization that others more literally see things in their head...I seem to think in spoken words and ideas......

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  32. A therapist I know gets people to relax and they often visualise.. (he found me extremely relaxed, though I don't see pictures/images) He said that nobody sees an image in their mind that is indistinguishable from reality except in psychosis. (or i'd add, dreaming). (or lucid dreaming where the image is like a dream though you become aware that you're dreaming and can control it).

    I just read an article that said people that are good at visualising find it easier with their eyes closed. People that are bad at it find it easier with their eyes open.
    Maybe since it is not to be indistinguishable from reality like a dream, and can be easier with eyes open, then perhaps it is more of a construction, subconscious or conscious.
    I don't get much detail but if I construct a dog I could say which way it is facing. And if they say "does it have a big bushy tail", I could say "no", and then maybe it suddenly will.
    I can imagine a triangle with my eyes open.
    Maybe those that can construct better can glorify it more by calling it an image, but their image is still not indistinguishable from reality.

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  33. I am currently 18 and I am also a "non-imager", I think the sooner you realize that you do not have this capability of "Mental Imagery" the worse you will feel, it seems to be all around you, how everyone talks to you, its been implemented into society so greatly that people have this capability that the thought of someone not having it is out of the question, even school systems have the assumption that everyone has this capability.

    When an English teacher tells me to "picture what will happen next and draw it" for a book report, i mean yes analytically and logically i can rationalize a set number of situations where it would fit but its insulting where over 90% of my assignments should be done using this capability.

    Through time of people talking to me in "pictures" it felt like an insult everywhere i went, to those who have children who have this i strongly suggest boosting their self-esteem about skills they have currently because through school and being around "Imagers", they will feel left out and confused. You know the whole lets go outside and swing around sticks pretending they are swords or guns to get the bad guys or dragons thing? I certainly felt left out beyond all means.

    I had a stroke when i was born i generally blame that occurrence but over the years i am glad to see it is becoming more publicly aware of the possibility.

    Yes it is possible to go without this "Mental Imagery" through life and you can do anything an "Imager" can do aside from visualize. But i can say from experience even though young, i wished i had never realized what i am missing out on.

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  34. First, there is now a facebook page for non-imagers/mental blindness. It seems that we non-imagers are mostly on our on as far as the rest of the world is concerned. I am 65 and only realized that the rest of the world could really see things with their closed and even see things that weren't there with their eyes open if they choose. One reason it probably took so long for me to figure it out was that academics were fairly easy for me. My verbal and nonverbal skills were about the same but I preferred verbal activities. I am right-handed. I can find my way most any where without a map but I have trouble with right and left. I think I'm more creative than the average bear but I have trouble completing projects and my organizational skills are pretty poor. I can focus fairly well when I'm motivated to. From what I'm reading I think some people connect visual memory and visual imaging. I think they are two different things and I think non-imagers who also have poor visual memories probably have greater difficulty than those with good vm. Just a guess. And my 31 year old son is also a non-imager.....

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  35. I am a non-imager who also has developmental Dyspraxia and have a strong feeling there may be a connection.
    When I was a child I was considered very good at art but what that actually meant was that I was very accurate at copying from real objects or images/other pictures; I was/am completely unable to draw from imagination. I cannot picture my husband or late mother, say, in my "mind's eye". I love reading and did my MA in literature, but only fully realised recently that other people "saw" images of books whereas I cannot (or to be totally accurate, I only see fleeting fragments of images which do not form a coherent whole).
    Anyway, back to the dyspraxia..For people with this disorder (related to ADD), the two hemispheres of the brain do not work in a smooth coordinated way. This leads to problems with coordination, language (someone mentioned a childhood speech disability?), perception and thought. As with others on the broader spectrum (ASD, ADD, dyslexia), there are problems with sensory over(and under)sensitivity. Dyspraxics have trouble distinuguishing left/right, with spatial awareness/sense of direction being problematic.
    I would really love to know if this rings any bells for anyone or any fellow dyspraxics are non imagers? Ta, Liz

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    1. Liz,
      You rang some bells with me. I have trouble with right/left, can't stand to be where there's lots of noise, have a good vocabulary but am very nervous about pronouncing words incorrectly, have a very poor concept of my body in space and a poor sense of timing.

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    2. Funny enough I also have dyspraxia and am quite good at English.

      It's not that I can't mentally visualise, but what I notice when I read is I use places I've seen before to visualise. When a place is mentioned when reading and I don't have any where to refer to I usually struggle a bit to imagine it.

      I have also thought briefly about there being a sort of link between imagination and dyspraxia.

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  36. Boy - did I just hit jackpot. I also didn't realize for a long time that I couldn't see any images in my mind. People didn't believe me - "but you read lots of books" and I got/get frustrated at visualisation work in meditations. So why do I feel that I've hit jackpot - because I'm not alone! I also have a successful professional life and have done well academically - the only subject I never passed was art/drawing at school :-). I wish I could find help, because I wonder if I miss out on a fair bit - but at least I don't have to feel too strange - I get by quite well using words. Thanks for sharing! Unfortunately there's not much on FB page

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  37. For me it's like the image is there in my mind, I just can't see it. And believe me, I have tried! I can sculpt things with lifelike realism. The weird thing is I do this spatially and I can't see what it will look like beforehand. Although I can sculpt, my drawing ability is childlike. I am a brilliant writer.
    I have read about 10 to 12 percent have mental blindness. It's so nice to communicate with others like me. I'm right handed and highly intelligent. Maybe it forces you to become really smart to overcome this unusual condition.

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  38. I think Kosslyn is misstaken, but it depends on what you mean by mental image. You can reason about orientation of objects without visualization, because it is possible to reason about higher dimensional objects that cannot be represented in 3D. I think that many attributes and "concepts" about an object are linked to the "plain" mental image. It isn't immutable and it doesn't exist in a vacuum.

    If I try hard, I can imagine two corners of a triangle and as I try to bring the third corner to my attention, one of the others falls away. I think about music much more clearly and I can hold and manipulate larger, more complex musical ideas in my mind. My working memory is terrible and I need pen and paper to think things through. I recommend Betty Edwards' "Drawing on the right side of the brain" to those that want to learn to draw. While reading it, I realized I could, nice egoboost. I rarely draw and don't enjoy it much.

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  39. This is amazing because I never realized that other people could not 'see' images in their mind too. When I dream everything is black but I just know what is going on around me. It's like walking around your house with a blindfold on. You see blackness, but you know that the table is there. It has definitely affected me in school, I could never do math in my head or in english using the imagery literary term. Does if there is a scientific name for it?

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  40. I'm kind of depressed depressed now. I found out I was a non imager in college in my mind body connection class.. before that I had no clue really. I was ok in school I just didnt like it. I have trouble learning from reading a book or lecture. I have to see with my eyes to understand how things work. Cant do math in my head or see family faces or dream like normal people. When I dream its not like I'm there in the dream I'm just thinking about it like when I'm awake. No one will believe me and they just think I'm an idiot or something and I got into a big argument with my family because I couldnt explain it to them. I'm a very organized. Could never write essays or reports very well. I can see random images sometimes in flashes but can't control them and there random things but its awesome. I really wish I.could visualize and its depressing to have to go through life without it. It's nice to know I'm not alone tho

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  41. The scientific term for the absence of mental images is aniconia. But I am not sure if aniconia is the term you give to people like us.

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  42. Hi,
    I'm a non-imager too. Haven't been able to vizualize anything in my life. I really realised this when learned of NLP and motivation/relaxation techniques but remember that as a kid I tried to rememeber the face of that pretty 10 y.o girl from school and I couldn't :)

    The thing is I strongly believe it does affect my learning abilities. I study law and have huge, huge problems with memorising things. I tend to think it's kind of excuse for my laziness but to be honest even if I try to study I find reading and memorising data really tedious and ineffective.

    I do not have any feeling towards music. I just don't care. I bores me usually to listen to the same beat for more than 30secs. Therefore I can't and hate dancing. It's not fun. I have no rhythm.

    I have rather high iq (depends on tests but always more than 130) but cannot visually rotate cubes and things like that.

    I like to read but what I enjoy the most are the dialogues, plot, vocabulary. For obvious reasons I havent ever been able to make any movie in my head.

    Speaking of vocabulary I'm really very good at using my first language (Polish). I have a large vocabulary and good skills at communicating things concisely.

    I don't really like movies. I get bored after half an hour at best.

    Last year I was diagnosed as having low testosterone what is probably irrelevant but who knows.

    I envy those those of you who have good technical/hands-on skills/math/science...

    I'm terrified that bacause of this handicap I won't be able to find a decent job and finish my studies...

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  43. "Speaking of vocabulary I'm really very good at using my first language (Polish). I have a large vocabulary and good skills at communicating things concisely." Many people would envy your skills! We must all learn to maximize our strengths and to minimize or compensate for our weaknesses. Have you tried reading aloud when you are studying or listening to tapes. Some learn much better that way. You are very bright and I know you will be able to work out a good future for yourself!

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  44. i can picture a mental image clearly with eyes wide open . some does take extreme concentration though as once i was making the net of a box and to check it i was able to sit there and picture the 2d shape on the sreen folding and becoming 3d obviously this took ixtreme concentration but it helped

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  45. I'm a non-imager & have been all my life. I have never been able to visualize anything more than degrees of blackness (or it might make better sense to say different depths of shadows) with bright light spots thrown in randomly. No colors, no images, no shapes, nothing - not even in my dreams. Auditory components (hearing sounds, voices, songs, etc.) in my dreams or memories is pretty rare but it does occasionally occur. My dreams & memory recall involves the dream/memory being narrated & described, similar to old radio shows, by my internal voice. Do other non-imagers have similar experiences?

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  46. I have quite vivid dreams but can't form a mental image. Nearest I ever get is when I'm close to sleep or have just woken up.

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  47. I am a 62 year old male who also has never been able to create an image in my mind. I discoved this after going to a relaxation class in my mid 20's. "close your eyes and think of a peacefull place now imagine a waterfall........" nothing. Wile this was not new to me at the time - I talked about this non experience and realised that others were really able to see the waterfall etc. While I note a lot of bloggers have been successful I found learning difficult much of learning is via association with known facts / information which for many use mental imagary to make that association. While I had to repeate things again and again to reread over and over again to make it sink in. This may or may not be relevant .....I also dont have any depth perception which I am advised must have a physical cause. Yet was able to see 3D for the first time watching Avatar just a few seconds when things floated through the air.

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  48. I am a 62 y.o. female and the only time in my life that I could picture things and really saw them was after I was sea sick and vomited. It only lasted a couple of minutes though. I am right handed, don't care for music and can't hold a tune. I have always had difficulty with right and left, but am good with directions. I have an above average IQ and like logic.
    It is relief to know that there is a bunch of us;-))

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  49. Hi All,

    I'm a 30 year old Male and am also unable to form a mental image in the minds eye. I only recently discovered I was among the minority of people unable to visualise after talking to my girfriend who has no trouble picturing objects and scenes in her mind.

    I'm a scientist and visual artist funnily enough, and have always loved drawing. Similarly, I love music and can 'play and alter a tune' in my mind. I never forget a face but have trouble remembering names, and generally have a bad long term memory. I have vivid dreams and am only able to visualise in my mind during that brief moment before falling into REM sleep. How incredible it would be to be able to visualise like that all the time!! Additionally, Im also poor with directions.

    I've done some research into the topic and there appears to have been quite alot of research already undertaken in this field. Here are some general links with some good footnotes of academic articles:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vividness_of_Visual_Imagery_Questionnaire_(VVIQ)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mental_image

    You can also search the Journal of Mental imagery and other psychological journals if interested.

    Apparently only 3% of the population is unable to form a mental image :( So we're part of a minority unfortunately. There's definately scope for further research in this area.

    I should also add that I have been able to visualise in my mind only when using Psilocybin and LSD. This experience was amazing and I highly recommend it to anyone who feels they are able to go down this path. A small dose of either drug should be sufficient to enhance the visual cortex enough for you to 'see' in the third eye.

    Visualising is something I have struggled with for a long time and I hope some of this information helps some of you..

    Kind regards

    Your fellow non-visualiser.

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  50. Hi, likewise for me, very occasionally dream and also sometimes see images as I fall asleep but can't visualise otherwise. Would love to discuss this, find out if other traits are shared, or our skillsets, coping devices are common. Also just discovered this facebook group...
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Non-ImagerMental-Blindness-Awareness/217484264929757
    All the best,
    lindenrowland (at sign here) yahoo.com

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  51. I also am a non-imager, though I only recently figured out how unusual that is. I'm a 41 yr old, right-handed woman.

    I can remember anything I hear, so I was great at learning from lectures in school. However, I can't tell you what color my neighbor's house is, because I never looked at it and said (in my head) "that house is gray," or whatever. If I don't assign a word description to something, I can't remember it. I'd be a terrible police witness.

    I have a horrible sense of direction, and have to navigate by self-talk and landmarks. "Turn right at the gas station," etc.

    When I dream I see vague images. No one has faces, though I know who're they're supposed to be. Usually the background is just grayish nothingness.

    In searching the internet for information on this, I came across something called "non-verbal learning disability" (meaning you lack non-verbal skills, like imagery and spatial relations.)I think I might have a very high-functioning version of this, and wonder if it rings any bells for anyone else? http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/nld.htm#signs

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    1. I was having a conversation with my nine year old son driving him home from school in which he asked me: "Is it really true that you can't see things inside your head mum?" When I confirmed this he was baffled and kept asking me how do I do things like remember people. I explained that I just nise them when I see them (if I see them frequently but I have a hard time recalling who someone is if I have only met them once or twice and especially if I meet them out of context). He kept quizzing me and asking how I do things and it was a real education for me as he described how he sees things in his head and gave me the example of how when he is making up a story he sees it like a film happening in the middle of his head. I commented that I can't understand how he can do this and see the things in front of him at the same time and he said it's like his eye ball looks up into his head at the same time as looking forward. He was shocked as I tried to explain that I could not even imagine how he does this and he was really concerned for me and kept saying "You are really blind mum you are actually so blind!" It made me wonder whether there are others who perceive the world as I do so did a google search for "no mental image" and was delighted to find this discussion. I do wonder what the incidence is. Is it really as many as 1 in ten I sort of doubt it as I have never knowingly met anyone else who cannot visualise. This lack of mental images does impact on me everyday because I am a teacher of the deaf. It is a disadvantage in learning to sign as there are aspects of Sign which require use of space in front of you to place objects and literally position them as they are in the signer's "mind's eye" - which I don't have. Although I can recognise a sign I cannot remember it visually so when I want to remember what a deaf child has signed to me I have to translate it in my head into English and and make a conscious effort to remember it in words as in the same way as I use my verbal memory. I hope it is not a common problem as it would be terrible for deaf people if they could not think in images. Having heard my son explain how he thinks visually inside his head, I can now understand better how deaf children think although I wih I could learn to do it so I could empathise with them more fully.

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  52. I was sure that I couldn't visualize. I realized today I CAN visualize, but only if there's absolute silence around me. Any noise at all, I'm struck mentally blind. This probably explains why I've never visualized before, because 1.) I didn't know to try, and 2.) it would only work in a soundless environment. What are the odds I'd happen to be in a silent place during an experiment like that?

    My guess is that my brain is wired a little oddly, and I'm using auditory processing centers to visualize. Apparently, it's like old dial up internet. I can use the phone, or I can look at the internet, but I can't do both at the same time.

    Anyway, maybe this will help someone else. Try to establish absolute silence (not easy; I have to stick my fingers in my ears), close your eyes tight, and try to picture some place familiar. It's not like seeing a photograph in my head , but it's definitely a visual image. Good luck!

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  53. My imagination has never been visual imagery. my dreams are usually unclear too. though because i dont have a visual imagination, iv noticed that i have much higher reflexes and common sense than most people i talk to. i guess its sort of like a trade off, cept id rather have a visual imagination ;/

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  54. I've also only just noticed that i can't paint a mental image of something in my head unless I'm just about to fall asleep. I also have dyspraxia and dyslexia. I'm a music producer who is hyper sensitive to sound also. What's strange is I have really good face recognition?

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  55. I hope my unique case can shed some light in a way, here it goes.
    I can imagine, in a sense, almost everybody's face that I know in my mind, or at least the essence of their face or whatever. I can kind of picture an apple or a sandwich in my head, but yet I cannot picture my own face. It is driving me insane. I can picture my mother, father, friends, brothers, but when it comes to my own, I just can't get it.
    I am wondering if there are two camps in this area, camp one being the logical, auditory types who aren't art/music inclined who just maybe process a certain way, and the second camp being more of a psychological issue-based one.

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  56. I am almost 60 and I have never been able to visualize at all ... when I close my eyes I just see black (or kind of orange on a sunny day) I can't "picture" my kids, my house, my own face, ... nothing! I have felt cheated since I found out that other people can picture things .. no fair God! It is nice to see that I am not the only one in the world .. it is not something I usually talk about! My memories are usually logical "maps" - I don't dream often at all, but when I do it is usually like a very frightening movie! I only remember about 3 dreams in my whole life. I wish I could "picture" things - it would make decorating SO much easier!

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  57. I have never been able to visualize either. Since i was young I struggled to read and spell. I think it is because I couldn't picture the words.

    I have an above average IQ, very logical good at problem solving, but I have to draw out the problem. I find patterns easily which helps a lot with math.

    I find it hard to listen to lectures because I cant picture what they are saying. It has always been easier for my to teach myself.

    My sense of direction is terrible. Im bad with right and left.

    When i dream or try to image I do it with feelings. I am an athlete and when ever I try to visualize myself competing I can feel my muscles working, which makes me very aware of my body. My sense of smell and sound aren't good.

    Im not musical at all but I enjoy listening to it.

    I have always loved drawing but I need to copy a picture I cant get one out of my head.

    I am very bad at names and faces. I often memorize peoples features and cant always identify them from a person with the similar features.

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  58. I am very similar to most of you. I cannot visualize anything at all when I am awake. I have noticed recently that I can while I am asleep. In full color also. I have 2 questions to invoke. The first ... my blood type is A - . Since people with RH Negative blood type are a small percentage of the population, is this related ? The second question ... I have also had a UFO encounter. Please don't make fun of this. Just trying to see if others in either of these 2 categories are unable to visualize while awake.

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    1. I am O neg as are both of my children. Two of us can't visualize and one can. I also have a friend who is A neg and he can visualize. I don't think blood type is the issue because the nonvisualizers are a much smaller percentage of the population than neg blood types. Good to think outside the box though.

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  59. Wow what an interesting blog and what a relief to find it. I am also a non imager but strangely up until around a year ago I could form images in my minds eye, in fact i always had a very active imagination and was able to create what ever image I liked in my mind. I used to enjoy letting my mind wander into what ever it liked as I was falling asleep, picturing friends, family, old pets, old homes, new homes, small streets, large towns, the universe. I could always create anything I liked. Then one day I realised that I could no longer do this, that when I closed my eyes all I saw was black. I don't remember a specific day or event when it happened, I just remember suddenly realising it had stopped.

    Now it is pretty much impossible for me to create an image in my mind. I sometimes get a vague picture, but i am unable to stabilise it or hold onto it, it simply drifts into darkness. So sadly I have experienced both sides of the coin. Before, my mind, my imagination, was open, bright, colourful, fascinating, unbelievable, extreme, dark, light, vast, amazing and infinite, capable of creating worlds and detail that could take your breath away. I took it for granted, it was natural, second nature. It was part of me, it was me. Now it's gone.

    I've seen neurologists and psychotherapists and no one has explained it to me or even taken it seriously. They probably don't even realise what I am talking about, they also take for granted there ability to image, they do it all the time and probably don't even notice it, it's part of them, it is them. So did I.

    Now I feel like part of me is missing, part of my soul has been taken, I no longer have a free running imagination full of colour, detail and light...just black.

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    1. You had imagination, i am curious when did this stop happening, and when exactly did you notice it, i have a suggestion for you but it maybe a diet change let me know if you interested in the idea and please do reply!

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    2. Im sure interested, I remember having an incredibly vivid imagination as a child, yet now i can see nothing more than the back of my eye lids. What is your suggestion?

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  60. Wow! I sometimes feel sad that I'm missing the ability to mentally visualize but you know exactly what you're missing. That must be really tough because you obviously enjoyed the ability and it enhanced your life. It is infuriating that professionals do not take this seriously. I had one tell me that she had never heard of it, hadn't read about it, there were no studies and therefore it must not exist. Did the neurologist do any kind of brain scan? It is perplexing and it looks like no research is going to happen unless we find a researcher who is one of us.

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  61. That must be a tough one Phil. Ive never been able to create mental images so I haven't lost anything, but for you to have had such a powerful ability and, then just to lose it must be devastating. Was there anything that might have triggered the loss of imaging? It amazes me just how many people vehemently refuse to even entertain the notion of non imagers.

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  62. I have the same condition. I am unable to imagine anything (picture, sound, smell, etc). I recently came across the condition called Alexithymia and realized that a lot of what it describes applies to me. It appears that imagination is at the core of understanding emotions.
    While the Wikipedia article provided some insight, the book "Emotionally Dumb: An Overview of Alexithymia" described it in lot more detail. Some of the things were shocking to me.

    Quoting from the book:
    alexithymic individuals display are loyalty, dependability, ability to speak one’s mind, a skill for noticing detail, exceptional memory for certain facts (such as names, dates, schedules, routines), a desire for order and accuracy, an acute sensitivity to physical stimuli (hearing, touch, vision and/or smell), increased perseverance and endurance in areas of interest.

    ‘No’ seems to be the favourite default response of the alexithymic person.
    those with alexithymia are able to process some emotional data but that it takes longer to do so because they use different parts of their brain to do this than others.

    you rely on principles to guide your behaviour rather than gut feelings

    you rarely fantasise about personal projects or wishes

    other people find you unsentimental or lacking in feeling.

    Thompson, Jason (2009-07-16). Emotionally Dumb: An Overview of Alexithymia (1) (Kindle Locations 1203-1204). Soul Books. Kindle Edition.

    These are just a few of the things that I thought applied directly to me. There is a lot more in the book. Hoping it will help others here.

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  63. I love that this is here.

    I mostly believe I "am" a mental-imager, although if you asked me to draw my wife's face from memory (and I have some fine arts training), I know I couldn't do a very good job. I can "picture" my wife, but how well, really? Most mental images seem to dissolve if questioned too closely, it seems to me. At least mine seem to.

    My question, for those who don't have or don't believe they have mental imagery: If you are asked to draw an apple, can you do it? Well or not well? On what do you rely to do it, if not a mental image? If you are asked to picture an apple "in your mind" (without drawing it), what do you "see"?

    Further, if you are asked to draw something technical, not representational, like a circle, do the circumstances change?

    (I first got interested in this topic when one of my grad school professors, Howard Gruber, a brilliant developmental psychologist, claimed not to have mental imagery. Gruber claimed to see the letters, "a-p-p-l-e", as if written on a blackboard! So he had imagery, just of a different order.)

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  64. I am a 29 year old female. I noticed I had lost the ability to form mental images about two months after I gave birth to my son this past October. Up until this point I had always been able to form full color mental images, movie like scenarios, and dreamed vividly. I have a degree in Visual Communication and specialized in drawing informational graphics and graphic design. I love to draw. I also have a teaching degree in English. I love to read and have always mentally pictured what I read. I am right handed, but can do most things with both hands. I have type O negative blood. I have had two experiences where I believed I saw UFOs.(lol - yeah yeah i know it's crazy) I am super sensitive to noise, uneven lighting, and I react emotionally to smells. I even have emotional reactions to certain colors. About five years ago I experienced what I personally labeled panic attacks. I sought help in counseling because I would wake daily with feelings of extreme grief like I had lost a close family member. Sometimes I would wake in a rage and my blood pressure would be high. I sought medical help and my medical doctor prescribed anti-depressants. This did not help. The meds were changed to anti-seizure meds and I felt entirely FLAT emotionally and mentally, although I still had mental images. The anxiety returned. I weened myself off meds. Through meditation I started to feel better. I got a job teaching in a remote rural school in Alaska and lived off the grid with my husband for a year. During that time I had no anxiety symptoms at all. I no longer felt extreme emotions. I got pregnant and moved back down states with my husband. We were living with my parents, I had my son and delivered c-section. Two weeks later my dad's father died and some of my anxiety returned - that's natural I suppose, but it was nothing compared to the anxiety i experienced before. Two months later my husban, son, and I moved into our own home and my inability to create mental pictures ceased. I've been experiencing uncontrolled muscle twitching, weak grip with my hands, insomnia, loss of balance, and odd memory loss - forgetting what food i just put in the microwave, or forgetting to turn into my driveway. I also cannot fantasize or think creatively about anything. I can still dream, but I am dreaming about things I have done in real life. Examples are walking down a hill, driving a truck, taking a test. It seems most of the things I am experiencing are already posted here. While I feel some comfort knowing I'm not alone I really just want my imagination back! I tried to tell my husband, but he doesn't get it. I am wondering if the spinal tap for my c-section has anything to do with it because I was poked about 15 times before they could get the needle in. I also wonder if it's just anxiety over becoming a mother or turning 30.

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  65. A few days ago, it came as a big surprise to me to find out that many people can “see” things as images in their minds. I had always assumed that when people talked about “visualizing” things or “seeing things in their mind's eye” they were talking metaphorically.

    I could easily draw a detailed plan of the house I lived in as a child, but this is in no way a visual experience. I cannot tell the colour of the curtains as I do not see anything. It is just a conceptual model of the house.

    If I concentrate, I can also imagine an object like a cup in my mind and even turn it round. It only has a vague sense of existence, so I can quickly lose it. It has no visual appearance at all, so it is meaningless to ask what colour it is. When someone asks me to “visualize” something, I have a vague notion of something physical, but without seeing anything. I tend to elaborate on it with words in my head. I had assumed that everyone else did the same. It doesn't seem odd to me to imagine things without seeing them, because holding something in my hands with my eyes closed also gives me a non-visual mental model.

    When I think, my thoughts take the form of verbal sentences in my head. I explain everything to myself in words. When I am thinking, I sometimes draw sketches on paper to give my thoughts a visual element. If people are talking in the room, it disrupts my thoughts and I find it very difficult to think. I tend to focus very hard on whatever I am doing, which helps to blot out what is around me. My dreams are thoughts in words going through my mind whilst I am asleep; sometimes they have a visual element, but nothing like seeing the real world. I can't say whether they are colour or black-and-white; it is more ill-defined than that.

    When I read, I hear the words in my head as if I am speaking internally. I have never been able to read novels. With hindsight, this is probably because I am not able to visualize the characters or the scenes. By the end of a chapter, there are just thousands of facts to remember, which is impossible. At school, I found English Literature absolute torture as we always had to read a book in the vacation and then write an essay about it. Although I spent many agonizing hours trying to read the book, I had little idea what it was about by the time I got to the end. Since then, I have had a few attempts to read a novel, but have given up after a chapter or two.

    I have always been good at maths and physics because I can understand ideas and concepts rather than remember facts. New concepts just seem to slot together with the concepts I already have. I have a science degree and PhD and I am a creative thinker when it comes to technical problems. I can read scientific books without any problem, because they largely involve concepts rather than facts. I often remember where to find facts, rather than the facts themselves. I did very badly at school with subjects that involved remembering lots of facts, such as history and geography.

    I also have trouble remembering people's faces. I have to make a conscious effort to verbally remember details of their appearance. I often don't remember people if I have only met them once before, so will introduce myself again much to their surprise and my embarrassment. I have trouble watching films because I confuse the different characters with one another and so quickly lose the plot. My sense of direction is also quite poor and I easily get lost.

    We tend to assume that everyone else thinks like us. Finding out about this has helped me to better understand my own strengths and weaknesses, which have always puzzled me.

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  66. I have an issue that's pretty different from all of you on this. I can imagine things, but I have a very hard time doing it in images. I can only hold an image in my head for a split second, and imagine everything using feel and sound. I can't use any other senses by simulating them in my mind, except for a little bit of sight. I can go so far with feel though that I can, with my eyes open, simulate myself punching someone while I'm doing something else. This is quite effective for anger relief, I must say. I can't change the volume that I simulate my hearing at, everything is at a steady medium-level volume. I haven't had a dream in 2 years. Most people consider it odd that I can't simulate images in my head, and they think that I would be incapable of properly thinking about something. They just haven't ever thought about things the way I have to. I imagine in words and concepts, and I can recognize things but not visualize them. My mind is always running the way most people's would when they can't think of the word they're looking for, but the word for me is a picture. I know where things are if I close my mind, but only relative to where I was, not based off of a simulated version of where I was in my mind. You don't need to visualize to think, I only think using logic and concept. Unlike some of the people above, I have no trouble reading because I think about a novel just the way I would anything else; in words, with the occassinal image flashing in my mind for a split second. No images I can imagine can flow onto eachother though, it's like looking at individual frames from a video. I am like a lot of the other people with this issue, though. I have stress issues and a bad memory. I believe that people with this issue are just about guranteed to have the personality types of INTJ, ENTJ, and maybe one of the feeling types. The way we have to think immediately rules out being perceptive or sensory, so we have to have TJ at the end. This variable of having a "mind's eye" makes two distinctly different types of person.

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  67. This link may also be of interest:

    http://dfan.org/blog/2010/01/23/i-still-dont-see-anything-when-i-close-my-eyes/

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  68. Hm this is very interesting. I too see absolutely nothing when I close my eyes. I had a severe snowboarding accident where I broke my neck, and have since not been able to do so. But I often find myself completely mentally imagining with my eyes open. Kind of like daydreaming...but not quite. I can very easily complete tasks, do work, play video games, talk to people..and be 100% in a different place with my thinking, critically thinking about problems and whatnot. It hasn't effected my life in any way..my accident happened at 13, and I'm now 21. Since then I've worked 5 (now in my 6th) summers in paid medical research and done well in school, soon to get my hon. BSc. My work in childhood brain cancer was even published in the international journal of radiation oncology... I didn't know this ability was that odd... should I tell someone about this? and who??? The issue is sometimes I find I don't pick up on everything in the physical world if I let my attention sway too far toward my mental world..if that makes sense. I will pop in and out, completely able to carry conversations and comprehend the subject matter, but my complete focus is most definitely not there.

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  69. Oh and I'll note that my spatial perception and mental rotation abilities are perfectly fine, but instead of seeing the shapes ect..I more..think them? It's hard to explain, but instead of having to see a shape rotate when comparing two in my minds eye to verify if they are the same, I kind of just look at both and know..

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  70. Greetings. I, too, lack the ability to produce mental images. I just published a blog on this topic:

    http://icantvisualize.wordpress.com

    Please join me there! For those who have already written at length in this comment thread, feel free to cut and paste portions or all of what you have already written.

    There is so little discussion of our condition on the internet!!! It's unreal, when you think of how dramatic it seems to some people. The most substantial conversations are confined to the comments to a single blog post here and there. I think it's worth devoting an entire blog to. Let's do it.

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  71. I am unable to do so as well.

    I did notice one interesting thing, I appear to be unable to be hypnotized. I've tried to allow professional hypnotists on 3 separate occasions, and in each of them they dismissed me and moved on to another candidate...

    be curious if this is related(since a lot of hypnosis is based on visualization)

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    1. I agree. Most hypnotic inductions incorporate visualization. And many hypnotic instructions do too.

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  72. Okay, someone has to help me I suffer from this exact condition and need serious help heck, this condition is so rare that it's serious luck that I found a website dedicated to this but anyway I have this problem and it's full blown for me every time i try to imagine an image of anything I mean anything it feels like I am going to choke to death and it hinders my speech and mathematical skills a tiny bit and I have this feeling that something is going to pop out of my head and that something is pressing down on it I also have these ridges all over my head which appear to be genetic because my dad has them plus I get headaches frequently it's a real pain for me and not to mention I am 14 years old and learned a LOT of adult things very early as early as eight years old so I can say I am in psychological terms premature and I actually was born premature by a month and a half and a quick note to add even though my visualization is crappy I can hear so well to the point that others often complain about sounds which I think about and I can even replay songs perfectly in mind but overall I am very worried :( so please if anyone can take the time to give me advice or there thoughts on this I would be extremely grateful about it so thank you and have a nice day. Oh and a side not I can only image thing very rarely for a split second so yeah it's torture and I have no clue what to do.

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  73. Wait never mind i'm good I am going to a neurologist anyway

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  74. From reading Oliver Sacks book (The Minds Eye) to Google to here.

    I've began searching for information regarding "how do I learn to visualize?" since I was in grade school fifty years ago. The internet sure beats pacing up and down library stacks.

    If I wake while having a dream, I know I was dreaming because of the lingering conversations in my head.
    But I know I had some very frightening dreams up until I was about four years old, so somehow I lost an ability I used to have.

    I took two online "faceblindness" tests that used famous faces (faceblind.org), and did quite poorly, as expected. But many with Prosopagnosia seem to have no trouble with mental imagery in general.

    What I haven't found, yet, is any sign that someone without visualization ability was able to gain it through any sort of visual calisthentics, which I am trying. The resources I've found so far all talk about "improving" visuaization skill. Not getting it.

    And BTW, I have an excellent sense of touch. My cats think I'm the greatest :)

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  75. I thought it may be of interest to those who have no ability to visualize that the exact opposite is also common. My husband is dyslexic and thinks almost entirely in images and has a hard time articulating thought. He doesn't hear words in his head unless he consciously rehearses what he wants to say. In "The Gift of Dyslexia" the author indicates this is the case with dyslexia as well as autism. It seems there are people at both ends of the spectrum. I'm surprised it hasn't been researched more.

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  76. I am the same as most of you guys - a non-imager though I am considered very gifted and talented because I have always been on top of all the things I ever did but I have never been able to form a mental image of anything not even of a blank paper. I asked about this from the people around me and it seems it is all normal for them and think I am strange for I can't make a mental image. But still I am searching for a way to do so if possible. If anyone of you know of anyway I can imagine things in my mind please do share.

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  77. I wonder if any of the tasks were performed with hands behind the back in whole or in part?

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  78. Reading a quote by Nicola Tesla (Don't remember the exact words) I found out that this minds eye can be trained and I started practicing it every night, the aim being to hold on to an image for as long as possible and to see more detail for any image that pops up and after a few weeks, for the first time ever did I get a clear image of a girls face, I could look at this image, see the hairs in the eyebrow, it was a very clear and crisp image and it was fully 3D and just like real. After a minute it faded and I realized that all my life before this moment I was never able to actually see any images, just form a list of attributes and ideas instead of clear images. Lately having trouble imagining something again and decided to research the issue and ended up here.


    Info (since others shared theirs)
    I have:
    Normal auditory senses.
    I can "see" beautiful images in dreams (sometimes).
    Was told that I am talented in many fields.
    Can imagine things, like how someone will look like bald.
    Can't normally see images, they fade too quick and appear blurry in the first place, but I can "think" them.
    Strangely enough I think visually, if you can call it that.
    I have very good long-term memory, very bad short-term memory.
    Spacial reasoning, spacial rotation is great.
    I can remember streets well.
    I can remember faces well.
    I can't remember names well at all.
    I can't instantly distinguish left from right.

    Another test you can take: close your eyes then press on your eyeballs, do you see fractals?

    These fractals are as clear as the image that I saw of the girl.

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  79. wow amazing to find others like me! I've never been able to picture things in my head, I'm now 38. Just had a conversation with my boyfriend about it yesterday and he struggled to understand what I was saying and eventually commented that it must be very lonely. It is odd as I am very artistic and in all learning style questionnaires come out as highly visual. In fact the running joke at work is me colour coding everything! I rarely dream (or know I've dreamt) and when I do can't hold on to the story for long as I can't recall the visuals just sort of facts. I'm great at remembering faces, not as great at recalling places in terms of routes.

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  80. I've never been able to visualize a thing. Tried the mental-calisthenics thing and couldn't even visualize the letter A after weeks of steady daily trying.

    I'm right-handed, with a high IQ, and did very well in school until I hit things that absolutely required visualization in college (i.e. "draw each molecule in the Krebs cycle from memory" or "imagine the curve represented by this formula, rotate it around such-and-such a line, and sketch the resulting solid.") I failed beginning organic chemistry twice and calculus-2 three times after skipping three grades in elementary school and graduating high school with honors never having studied a day in my life.

    I have no trouble with right and left, but I get lost at the drop of a hat. Even routes I think I know well, I get lost if my attention slips the slightest bit or I get derailed by a detour.

    I dream vividly and in color, and can remember that I saw beautiful things in my dreams. Like someone said earlier, if I've repeated an activity over and over that day, I can sometimes see it in that space between being awake and asleep, but never under my control. It just happens.

    I too seem to be immune to hypnotism.

    I recognize faces as familiar quite well, but usually can't place them if it's been a while.

    I'm audio-hypersensitive, and I can hear a symphony in my head quite clearly. My thoughts are a clearly audible mental dialogue. I get songs "stuck in my head" all the time.

    My memory is horrible. What long-term memories I do have, are like stories I've memorized. I can tell the story, and I know it actually happened, but I have zero sense of having actually been there. The one exception to this is that smells and sounds can "take me back" so that I have the sense of being in the memory, but there is still no visual component. I remember how I felt, who was there, what we did, but zero picture.

    I've learned to somewhat compensate for not being able to visualize for things like meditation, relaxation, goals, etc. by using auditory cues instead. I may not be able to visualize a candle flame, but I can call up the sound of a ticking clock, etc. It's sad that I can't remember the faces of lost loved ones, but at least I can call up the sound of their voices. It's something.

    It could be worse, I suppose, but it is so incredibly frustrating. Thanks for sharing your experiences, everyone. Hope mine helps as well.

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  81. I remember having an incredibly active imagination as a child, to the point I would sometimes visualise things as real as day when my eyes were open, such as a velociraptor standing next to my bed! I am now twenty years old and have completely lost this ability, as well as the ability to picture anything when my eyes are closed, not even basic shapes or colours. I meditate regularly but this does not help my 'minds eye'. I wonder if this is because I subconsciously blocked out the ability due to being scared as a child? (as i'm sure anyone would be to see a dinosaur in their bedroom) Very interesting to see the number of people dealing with the same condition, but how depressing is it that there seems to be no research or help available! I am in the process of experimenting with various psychedelics such as psilocybin containing mushrooms and dmt and am hopeful that this will allow me to access my visual imagination outside of the experience. Thanks to all that have shared their stories, it is reassuring to see I am not alone in this frustrating situation.

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  82. I am another one that cannot visualise. All I 'see' is blackness, I am not able to imagine texture or smells either, no matter how recent I have come across it in reality.
    A few of you have mentioned seeing things in dreams but I don't. I have impressions of what happens but no real picture. For example, a dream I remember was one where I was strangled by a friend. I can say who the friend is but not where I was or what anything was around me because I didn't see, I woke up knowing I was being strangled but nothing else. Come to think of it, I don't dream that much (I have memories in the form of nightmares but again it is mostly physical sensations from the past). I feel rather left out that I don't 'see' dreams either because what I've read over the past month or so that most people that cannot visualise can have some rather vivid dreams.

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  83. I also cannot "visualize" things, especially people's faces.

    I can sometimes focus in on a detail. For example, I cannot picture the house I grew up in, but I am able to sort of picture just the door, or picture just our garage window with a flag hanging in it, or picture just the mailbox.

    I am also sort of able to see faces if I think of a TV show scene I watched or a picture of someone. Somehow, I am better able to remember a picture of a person's face than the actual person's face.

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  84. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  85. I am unable to visualize I did find a medical term for it if that helps (Irriminiscence, or damaged revisualization, or non-verbal learning disability). I do dream, and I have tried to visualize in a quiet place with no effect. I have “caught myself” visualizing and that immediately shuts it off, this happened rarely and always with absolutely no distractions, like just before going to sleep (Clearly not drifting to sleep, or into a dream though). This at least convinces me that it is a real lack and not just choice of words. I am in engineering and this has not kept me from advancing in CADCAM etc. I can draw very well if I have a picture in from of me, but hardly can do line drawing from memory, so I know it does affect me in some way. Has anyone looked into herbal remedies, vitamin deficiencies, hypnosis, etc.? It is good to know people are aware of this, hopefully there is a solution out there… It would also be good to know if there is a cure or therapy out there for this

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  86. I am also unable to visualize and have found it difficult to discuss the disability with any one as I have just got confusing and conflicting answers.I have found that "picture with the minds eye" seems to make more sense to people than the word visualize .I have spent some years now searching for answers to why I have this condition and have found several documented cases of people that have been afflicted with the loss of picture memory with sever affects in their day to day lives as they haven't had time to develop strategies to cope .The cause for these people was the cold sore virus traveling through their nasal passages into there brain which normally causes hallucinations and even sometimes death as encephalitis.I hypothesis that all of us that can't visualize have had a mild form of encephalitis caused by whatever and consequently have mild brain damage .There has been some interesting research done lately on the fact that 90% of people with alzheimer's have hsv1 dna in their brains.http://sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=8222628 .http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081207134109.htm .

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  87. Has anyone else experienced a correlation between the ability to form mental images and other more or less permanent states of mind?

    Depression
    Being unable to influence your own well being
    Being scared as a child


    I have lost the ability to form mental images on my own for long periods of time. (I still get images when listening to others)
    Hopefully it will return soon. When it does, my ADHD-ish (Inattentive) symptoms greatly diminish.

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  88. Your situation is different because your ability' "comes and goes." Most of us never experience a mental image except for the the brief flash that sometimes occurs when falling asleep. I also have ADHD symptoms and depression. I attribute the depression more to the ADHD than the inability to form mental images. The frustration of not functioning in a normal way is always hanging over my head and greatly contributes to my lack of self worth. It is very interesting that your ADHD symptoms diminish when you can form mental images. It would be so great if this problem was being studied by someone!

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  89. Hi, I created a quick survey. So we can create a bigger picture and see results in a more clear way (graphs). Hope it will reveal some commonalities for our situation

    http://soorvey.com/?s=132ASLIRNQY

    any suggestions are welcomed (mistakes - English is not my first language, or ideas for new questions)

    Thank you

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    1. I tweeted the link to this survey; we'd love to hear what comes out!

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  90. Thank you, Andrew
    As soon as I gather enough results (at least a bigger sample)
    I will post here a link, also I'll put it on the survey page.

    If anyone want to help me with the survey, you can write to
    vladus90@yahoo.com

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  91. Same here - get a vague impression at best and vlad pm'd you.

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  92. survey results:
    https://www.dropbox.com/sh/olka1a2ow9loc2g/3Qc2kdad7J

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  93. I have the same problem as most of you. One common thread seems that almost everyone has one or more types of psychological problems. Maybe there is a correlation. I canot see movies when reading a book, all I see when I close my eyes is black or nice orange with floaters if sun is shining. I too have many psychological disorders and am verily aware of physical feelings from my body. I can remember manly dreams and often can see images and stories in my dreams. Obviously .
    the mind's eye does not come from the same place as dreams.I am an M.D. , have a high IQ, great at math and sciences. I love seeing movies and art but have great trouble focusing and difficulty concentrating when driving. I was a raedidoloist and was very gifted. I could see things better than most radiologists and had a great ability to put images onto words.I was one of the best imagers in the world in ultrasound and yet could not convert words into pictures. I could look at my wife and then close my eyes and could not conjure up an image. This has a large negative impact on my life. I can not live vicariously, enjoy or escape into most books and if I am not busy I am stuck with only my thoughts which are often unpleasant or not constructive. One can easily understand when someone is blind visually and I am very grateful l do not have that problem. On the other hand most people can not grasp the idea of not having a mind's eye or visual imagination.Many of the people in this blog are very successful and lead somewhat normal lives , however, I think this does have a significant impact on our view of the world and our mental status. When I am alone I feel not connected well to the outside world. It is necessary that researchers study us, look at functional MRI,s to see how we compare to people with a mind's eye and try to understand what we have in common with each other. We need to be scanned, studied interviewed an followed till someone can piece our problem together. We somehow have to form a group with a leader or leaders who can get researchers interested in our problem as I am sure we have a significant handicap that is not visible to others. I wish I had a mind's eye, but would not give up my gift because it has been so wonderful for me and my patients. My gift is being able to see things and describe them in detail when I am looking but I cannot put words into images. A paradox that I am grateful for but also a curse in many ways. We all would be thrilled to be able to image mentally. We know the problem. Now we need to find the cause or causes if we are to hope to improve our plight. Will someone researcher stand with us and try to help us out. Where are they and how can we get them to respond. Wheree do we go from this blog. Any ides.

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  94. I think one thing we could do is develop a letter that we could email to universities around the world describing what life is like for non imagers (since some don't seem to even believe we exist). Perhaps we could spark an interest in a professor or grad student who might go on to research the subject. Maybe we could get Daniel Amen or another neurologist that does a lot if imaging to add a question about imaging abilities to people that he is going to scan. We may only be 3% of the population but that's a lot of people on a planet with a population of over 7 billion.

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  95. Quick comment and I'll pop back...

    I'm just out of hospital after a TIA (small stroke). Went in with double vision (6 nerve palsy) and now out and been told there is a brain lesion.

    Now I've noticed I can't form mental images and I'm freaked. This is a huge loss and something I make a big use of, part of my mental toolkit for my creative work. It feels like the artist has been cut from my brain. Bah!

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  96. I just realized a few months ago that most people can form mental images...and have quite frankly become completely devastated. I mean, how amazing must it be able to be to read some epic novel and see the whole thing in your head? Instead, for me, reading is just a chore.
    I've been depressed before in my life, but never quite like this.
    I plan on telling my family this weekend and have no idea how they will react.
    Life is so unfair.
    And the fact that the entire scientific world has invested so little into studying this is bewildering. Can anyone here find a single scientific journal article? I cannot.

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  97. Life can be "unfair" to all of us in different ways, just as it can be especially kind to us in different ways. Yes, I would like to be able to see things in my minds eye but only if I could turn it on and off at will. If you can't I think over stimulation would drive me crazy. There are talents I'd rather have - the ability to carry a tune to name one.

    And yes, it's a shame this hasn't been studied. I think we should all get in touch with our local universities and first make sure that they are aware of the condition and then suggest that they look for people that may be interested in doing research on it. Some young grad student will jump at the opportunity to study something with so little research behind it.

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  98. I am 60 this year, and I don't remember ever being able to see an image when I close my eyes. Like others posting here I rely on a word grid for memory of people and places. I can read a book again after a few months and not remember reading it before. Same with movies. I rely on family photos to remember what my 4 kids looked like when small. I have trouble remembering people from my youth if I don't have a photo of them. I am very technical and logical, considered smart by the people around me ... but I only "see" black when I close my eyes. My sister has the same problem ... maybe it is genetic ... wouldn't it be nice if someone did some studies on this strange problem!!

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  99. I have this....i have a strong imagination so when i cant picture somthing i just fill in pieces of the puzzle with my imagination....i noticed this when i was going out with this girl i liked i tried to picture her face and suddenly figured out i couldn't i would focus on old memories and slowly put her face together but still could not picture her face......i have been finding ways of figuring out if i was the only one with this good thing im not and i think this...defect...is good for people like me it makes our minds stronger in thinking.....i looked into parts of the brain because when i was a little kid i banged my head on a window seal and i cant remember anything before that like childhood i think i was about 5 when i did this and i could remember anything before that not even what i looked like...i saw that The occipital lobe is where i hit it but it didnt say anything about this defect so im a bit confused

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  100. its interesting that some of us non-imagers can visualize dreams while others cannot. i personally cant. i know what happened and who was there but i dont see it (kinda as if i was blind). it just is. and most of the time there isnt a location for events. they happen in a giant black expanse. the only mentions ive seen of people not dreaming visually are with blind people (mostly those who went blind before 5/born blind). not a single mention of sighted people not having visual dreams. it makes me wonder if we do dream in images but once awake some of us cant recall them as images? or if some of us dream non-visually like some blind people (tho blind people tend to taste, feel, and smell extremely well in their dreams and i can say that i dont have that)? any non-imagers out there who also dont "see" their dreams ever participated in a sleep study? if so were there any unusual results? i'm amazed that this hasnt been studied, as most of you are, both while awake and/or while in rem sleep.

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  101. what can be done then? Is there treatment? I could visually see things, quite boldly, then it disappeared. Why? Around my teens I believe. I have suffered some traumatic events in my childhood and have never sought help for any of it. would it matter? I have an !Q of 187, also tested gifted, etc... ADHD they said, though never have been tested. My mind can't turn off. It's hard to sleep lately, and I multitask more and more to tax my brain so it doesn't get "bored". Listen to foreign language music while doing brain puzzles as I run on the treadmill is my new thing.

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  102. Good to find so many other people out there who also can't visualise!

    I have also never been able to visualise images in my minds eye. To try and explain it to someone who can visualise would be: Trying to picture say an image of my dog, is like I am standing in front of my dog with my eyes closed. I know she's there, I can FEEL her there, but I can't see her. My memory makes up some of the feely/non-image of her, a brief micro-second snippet of something like an image but not enough to capture it as an image. Strange.

    However I do dream in colour & see pictures. I often dream of flying.

    The only time I have ever visualised is after taking LSD. And wow that was so amazing for me, since I have never been able to close my eyes and see anything. It really rocked my world.

    As a person who is not visual, I tend to be very empathic - I can often feel other people's energies or feelings. My other senses are more heightened as well.

    I am also short-sighted, wonder if many other non-visualisers have eye problems?

    It would be great to visualise, but I actually love having a keener sense of feeling than say my partner who is very visual, but doesn't "feel or sense" things like I do....

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  103. Really interesting to read about others in this boat.

    I didn't realize until I really became serious about improving my drawing abilities that this is an ability I don't have. Or at least, I thought it was. I'm not so sure, anymore.

    At first, nobody believed I couldn't visualize images in my head. I can (badly) draw, and since I was a child I've been very good at spatial reasoning and geometry.

    But in my mind I see nothing. When I close my eyes, at best I can see light peering through my lids. No pictures.

    Ask me to visualize a "red circle" and I can't do it. I can't see it; there's nothing there.

    I do pretty well on the geometry portions of IQ tests / etc. I don't close my eyes and imagine rotating the object, however; I map landmarks on the object and then relate those to each other. E.g., the bottom is flat, 2/3rds as long as the top, the left side is at a sharper angle than the left. (This is the same drivel that goes on in my head when I draw, too.)

    I don't feel handicapped by my inability to see in my head. Sometimes I've even argued that *nobody* can see an image in their head--they just *think* they can. I mean, tell me to imagine myself on a beach. I can. I "experience" it in my head. But I don't see anything. (I don't hear anything either, or "feel" anything like water on my feet.) But I "feel" the emotions; I "feel" like I'm there. I can get lost in my imagination like this (and do.)

    I believe now that most people do "see" things in their head. How accurately I'm not sure. If they could, why do even they need to draw from life to really get rich depth and details? But I at least believe they "see" more than I see--which is nothing.

    I did once see like this. It was a lucid daytime dream as a teen, and I was flying over a red-brown Mars-like environment. It was really awesome. I wish I could do it again.

    Much like someone else said earlier, when I draw something "new", the first time I see it is after I've sketched it. Oh, there are tons of strategic decisions that go in--bigger eyes, or positioned lower on the face, or maybe a jagged, torn ear--and I can "imagine" how it will make the sketch or piece "read"--but I don't really "see" it until it's drawn.

    I really wonder if it's something that can be overcome by training / practice.

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  104. I too am intellectual and my mind's eye is blind. I have dreams that I can recall maybe twice a year. There is a picture when I'm dreaming but when I wake up I cannot see it later. I can only recall some of the facts from the dream.

    I have never been able to see anything in my head or use my imagination to think outside of the box. With ADHD medication I can concentrate long enough to read and gather all the facts, but I do not see any pictures or movies. If I do anything, I may assign a glimpse of someone I have seen before to the notion of someone I am reading about. It's like an assignment statement. Person I've seen before = person I am reading about in the book Once that is established, that is it. When I continue to read the book, I don't see the person doing the things that are written, I just decide that they look like someone I have seen.

    I am very good at recognizing faces I have seen before, although sometimes it takes me a few minutes to place where I know them from. Unless I have met them several times and spent time with them, I will not remember their name.

    I do have myopia, but I've only been wearing glasses since I was 12 or so and I'm not really sure if I may have needed them before that age.

    I should also mention that I had some traumatic experiences in my childhood. I was actually reading about this on a Psych website, and it is known that people with Autism Spectrum Disorders can have this symptom as well as people with PTSD from childhood. It can also be a symptom of Alexithymia in which people are not in touch with or aware of their emotions or sensations. That is definitely not the case for me as I am a very feeling extrovert, although it is the case for my husband. Also, my son has Asperger's.

    Aside from all of that, I am very logical and mathematical. I love Math and Science!!!! :) I feel that it is a disadvantage to not have a mind's eye, as I think it is harder to entertain myself. I get bored very easily if I am not looking and listening to something. Quiet is good for sleeping, but too much of it during the day is agonizing. I hope that there are more studies done on this. I would love to be a part of the experiment!

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  105. Huh. Me too. Always thought the 'mind's eye' was a figure of speech. Really? Y'all can see stuff in your head? Now that just seems weird to me. Or maybe I am the weird one. Does it affect my cognition? Generally I am ostracized for being the smartest person in the room, so it doesn't appear to affect cognition. And I am a reasonably talented artist, so it doesn't seem to affect... visual intelligence. Perhaps it affects... manifestation? Or maybe it is like, several hundred years ago, when people thought you had to move your lips in order to read...? Dunno.

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  106. Sorry a few more comments, I too cannot remember names unless I have spent time with the person, also have wondered about being in the autism spectrum range, and specifically about alexythemia. Interesting...

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  107. I found this greatly interesting. I too must admit that I can not see images in my head. More so perhaps that is not correct; what information creates what could be considered an image is only fleeting and altering data. It causes great problems when I attempt to draw and describing people is completely impossible. I can not describe a face outside of vague features and attempting to get someone to draw it would be nigh impossible as the image would continually shift.

    Take a woman with a beach ball next to her sitting in a chair with an umbrella laying at the beach facing the sea while the suns setting.

    Seems simple enough; except I only have clumps of information. I can continue to create the smallest details down to colours, direction, land marks, the world around this person. But I can not simply see it from a single direction as an image that can be put on paper. Even sectioning it off into smaller sections I find myself calculating the 3d imagery of what is behind the sectioned off image and see it from many different angles.

    This all likely makes no sense however.

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  108. Wow... There are more people who can't visualise than i thought! (please excuse any rambling...I tend to go over the top if excited)
    Okay so i'm 23, left handed and don't ever remember having a 'mental image' except when just falling asleep, and then only with very emotive subjects (a random flash of an ill relative for instance)
    I think i am slightly different to other posters for two reasons. First, I have no 'mind's eye' OR 'mind's ear'. If i shut my eyes now, I could describe where everything is in my living room without visualising, i just 'know'. If i try and remember a conversation i have had, i can't 'see' or 'hear', but i 'know' it happened. Who it was with, where, and vague details.
    A previous poster mentioned not being able to 'see' the faces of lost loved ones but being able to hear their voices? I can't do either. The visual side doesn't phase me, i have pictures. But being a very voice based person, not being able to hear someones voice after they're gone...hurts, as does the fact that i cannot 'remember' them, i just 'know' things that we did in vague detail. I liken it to a corrupt memory stick, the info is saved, but i cannot access it correctly.
    Second, I am quite severely visually impaired. I have Glaucoma (damage caused by increased pressure in the eye(s)) and Retinopathy of Prematurity (Damage / detachment of the retina caused by premature birth). So i have no vision in my right eye and reduced vision in the left. Because of this i have a better ability to use my other senses (other posters mention hypersensitivity?). For instance if i want to cross a minor road, i don't bother looking, i stand at the kerb and listen for traffic. If i hear any, i look. If i don't hear any i cross. I also think this has contributed through necessity to me having a rather good sense of direction, though this is through 'landmarks' rather than visualising.
    I do dream. Annoyingly i occasionally have better eyesight while dreaming than in real life! As soon as i wake up visuals and audio are inaccessible, i just 'know' i dreamt, and can sometimes remember details. There are three dreams from childhood that i can remember a lot of detail from. One where i was best friends with Matilda.... :)
    My memory is shocking for some things and shockingly good for others. I still 'know' the layout of my playgroup, nearly 20 years after i was there (the main door leads into the cloakroom, sinks on the left, benches and coat hooks on the right, loos in front, door to the main room on the left before the sinks). But ask me specifics about what i did in a college lesson, what was said in a conversation or specifics about anything and i struggle.This, as well as bad self motivation and work ethic, has made study difficult. I need verbatim notes and to go over things a lot to remember them, but quite regularly don't. So come in to a lesson having completely forgotten last weeks work.
    Whilst re-taking my Maths GCSE (again) this year i discovered something interesting, i can do basic transformations - reflections, rotations translations etc, without 'visualising' but i really struggle with nets and planes...Surely both areas are as visual as each other?
    I don't 'visualise' when reading books, but i am a bookworm and love reading, i also love music, but am not at all musical.
    I would find it interesting to know of other 'non visual thinkers' with visual impairments.
    Sorry for the info overload, as i said i ramble when i'm excited.
    So glad i found this :)

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  109. I have the same problem. I find it really difficult to navigate when in my car because I can't picture the route I should take, even if it's one I've been taking for over years! My memory is good for numbers, and I find maths relatively easy, but I can't seem to visualise any mental images. It's really frustrating!

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  110. Great to virtually meet people with my similar disability. Can't remember when I actually figured it out, but I have been searching for years... asking shrinks, drs. etc. I did come up with a different diagnosis... dyscalculia... One of the main tenants is the inability to visualize! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyscalculia
    When I was doing more research on that and also ADD (which I do suffer from also) I came across a book called Grain Brain. Stated that some people have no reaction to gluten, some people have a gut reaction, and some people have a brain reaction. His studies were interesting, but need more follow-up and greater sample sizes, but the book's premise is that gluten can cause many brain issues and I wondered if our in-ability to visualize could be part of that. I decided to experiment on myself for 3 months (the books minimum recommended length) and the results are interesting. I have had more dream recall then I ever had, I haven't needed my left hand to make an L to remember my left from my right and my ability to drive without a gps is MUCH better.
    So I was wondering if anyone else would be willing to try gluten free living for 3 months and report back. 1 time is anecdotal and very possibly placebo effect... 25 people is worthy of a study. If you want to get a hold of me my email is danko2 at nc dot rr dot com
    Thanks!

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