Scientists Locate Where the Imagination Works in the Brain

Imagining a bumblebee with a bull's head is a seemingly effortless task, but actually requires the brain to construct an entirely new and unreal image.

What's the Latest Development?


Researchers at Dartmouth University have taken a step toward understanding what sets human intelligence apart, and have located that difference in the neural networks of the brain. In an experiment, individuals were asked to imagine specific shapes and then to mentally combine them into new more complex figures. Imagining a bumblebee with a bull's head, for example, is a seemingly effortless task, but actually requires the brain to construct an entirely new image. "Researchers measured the participants' brain activity with functional MRI and found a cortical and subcortical network over a large part of the brain was responsible for their imagery manipulations."

What's the Big Idea? 

Researchers call the neural network that activates when the imagination is at work the "mental workspace," which closely resembles the network thought to be responsible for human consciousness and our flexible cognitive abilities. Lead author of the study, Alex Schlegel, said: "Our findings move us closer to understanding how the organization of our brains sets us apart from other species and provides such a rich internal playground for us to think freely and creatively. Understanding these differences will give us insight into where human creativity comes from and possibly allow us to recreate those same creative processes in machines."

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