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."

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

Read it at Medical Xpress

Should you defend the free speech rights of neo-Nazis?

Former president of the ACLU Nadine Strossen discusses whether our society should always defend free speech rights, even for groups who would oppose such rights.

Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Former ACLU president Nadine Strossen understands that protecting free speech rights isn't always a straightforward proposition.
  • In this video, Strossen describes the reasoning behind why the ACLU defended the free speech rights of neo-Nazis in Skokie, Illinois, 1977.
  • The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
Keep reading Show less

Belly fat: Gut bacteria checks could lead to personalized diets

The reason one diet does not suit all may be found in our guts.

Media for Medical / Getty Images
Surprising Science
Keep reading Show less

NASA releases stunning image of ISS crossing in front of the sun

Strangely, the sun showed no sunspots at the time the photo was taken.

Image source: Rainee Colacurcio
Surprising Science
  • The photo shows the International Space Station as it orbits the Earth, as it does every 90 minutes.
  • The photo is remarkable because it offers a glimpse of the star at a time when there were no sunspots.
  • In November, astronauts aboard the ISS plan to grow Española chili pepper plants.
Keep reading Show less

Learn to design the life you love

Part 1: Deconstruction

Photo by Vadim Sherbakov
Big Think Edge
  • Deconstruction is exactly what it sounds like—a method for breaking your life down into its simplest component parts.
  • Ayse Birsel argues that deconstruction is like taking a camera apart: you can't possibly put it back together in the same way.
  • Be sure to check out Design the Life You Love, Part 2: Reconstruction to learn how to put the pieces of your life back together in a realistic way. Sign up for Big Think Edge to see exclusive more content!