Special Issue "Vividness, Consciousness, and Mental Imagery: Making the Missing Links across Disciplines and Methods"

A special issue of Brain Sciences (ISSN 2076-3425). This special issue belongs to the section "Cognitive Neuroscience".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (10 December 2019).

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Amedeo D'Angiulli
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Neuroscience, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada
Interests: Mental Imagery; Visual Cognition; Neuroscience of consciousness; Vividness; Ecological reliability and validity of imagery; Imagery Qualia; Electroencephalography; Event Related Potentials; Transcranial Direct Current stimulation (TDCs); Structural MRI; Reaction Times modeling; Verbal reports and Protocol analysis; Meta-analytic procedures; Systematic Research Synthesis; Brain Computer interaction

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Over twenty years ago, Baars (1996) noted that, “The strategy of treating consciousness as a variable has now become standard in the study of subliminal vision, blindsight, and implicit cognition. We can easily apply it to mental imagery—yet we rarely do so.” He concluded that, “As a result, even as consciousness research thrives in other domains, we have very little firm evidence about the conscious dimension of mental imagery.” In many respects, Baar’s conclusion still stands.

Today in many studies, mental images are still either treated as conscious by definition, or as empirical operations implicit to completing some type of task, such as the measurement of reaction time in mental rotation, an underlying mental image is assumed, but there is no direct determination of whether it is conscious or not.

The vividness of mental images is a potentially helpful construct which may be suitable, as it may correspond to consciousness or aspects of the consciousness of images. There is currently a surge of interest in vividness in cognitive neuroscience and neuroimaging literature (see Runge, Cheung and D’Angiulli, 2017, for a review). It seems that a general implicit assumption is that vivid images are conscious, and it is possible that the least vivid images are effectively unconscious or that they become such once a threshold (e.g., the “no image” in the Vividness of Visual Imagery Questionnaire) is reached. Thus it still unclear whether the vividness dimension may in fact be a kind of “disguised correlate of consciousness” (Baars, 1996) or if instead it might be a supramodal metacognitive dimension not necessarily associated with imagery. But even from studies using a vividness approach in neuroscience, the conscious dimension of mental imagery is not explicitly or fully tackled head on. Indeed, when a proper exhaustive literature search is conducted, it leads back to a paper by David Marks (1999) for a glimpse of what a theoretical discussion of the missing links might look like.

In this context, a complicating factor seems to be the surprising variety in what is meant by the term vividness or how it is used or theorized. Some authors do not mention imagery or consciousness at all when using the term vividness, but associate it to various forms of memory such as prospective, episodic, autobiographical, or to aliased processes not literally called imagery but, for example, imagining or visualizations or simulations. Similarly, replacement constructs for vividness have been offered, for example, in terms of the strength of imagery or semantic long-term memory contents. In all these cases, it is not really clear what is achieved by replacing one label with another or replacing a research tradition with another. We are still left with the gaps pointed out by Baars.

To fill some of the gaps, the goal of the present Special Issue is to create a publication outlet where authors can fully explore through sound research the missing theoretical and empirical links between vividness, consciousness and mental imagery across disciplines, neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, cognitive science, to mention the most obvious ones, as well as transdisciplinary methodological (single, combined, or multiple) approaches. Manuscripts based on studies integrating phenomenology, brain and behavior are sought for submission, as are studies that are not just on the “normative” but also on clinical or developmental or aging aspects. Mental imagery is here considered in the broadest possible terms, including imagination and all sensory modalities, and not confined to humans. However, vividness and consciousness need to be clearly defined or framed at the outset, and be terminologically consistent and coherent throughout a manuscript submitted to this Special Issue. Research articles, reviews, communications, perspectives, opinions, concept papers and case studies will be considered.

References

Baars, B.J. (1996). When Are Images Conscious? The Curious Disconnection between Imagery and Consciousness in the Scientific Literature. Consciousness & Cognition, 5, 261–264

Marks, D.F. (1999). Consciousness, mental imagery and action. British Journal of Psychology, 90(4), 567-585.

Runge, M.; Cheung, M.W.-L. & D’Angiulli, A. (2017). Meta-analytic comparison of trial- versus questionnaire-based vividness reportability across behavioral, cognitive and neural measurements of imagery. Neuroscience of Consciousness, 1-13. doi: 10.1093/nc/nix006.

Prof. Amedeo D'Angiulli
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • Vividness
  • Mental Imagery
  • Consciousness
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Neuroimaging
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavior
  • Verbal report
  • Phenomenology
  • Perception
  • Memory

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Editorial

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Open AccessEditorial
Vividness, Consciousness and Mental Imagery: A Start on Connecting the Dots
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(8), 500; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10080500 - 31 Jul 2020
Abstract
Over twenty years ago, Baars [...] Full article

Research

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Open AccessArticle
Taste Modulator Influences Rare Case of Color-Gustatory Synesthesia
Brain Sci. 2019, 9(8), 186; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci9080186 - 31 Jul 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
We investigated the effect of a sweetness blocker on the synesthetic taste experience of a rare color-gustatory synesthete, E.C., for whom specific colors elicit unique tastes. Blocking E.C.’s sweetness receptors while the tongue was otherwise unstimulated left other taste components of the synesthesia [...] Read more.
We investigated the effect of a sweetness blocker on the synesthetic taste experience of a rare color-gustatory synesthete, E.C., for whom specific colors elicit unique tastes. Blocking E.C.’s sweetness receptors while the tongue was otherwise unstimulated left other taste components of the synesthesia unaltered but initially reduced her synesthetic sweetness, which suggests a peripheral modulation of the synesthetic illusion. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
The Limiting Case of Amodal Completion: The Phenomenal Salience and the Role of Contrast Polarity
Brain Sci. 2019, 9(6), 149; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci9060149 - 24 Jun 2019
Cited by 3
Abstract
In this work, we demonstrated unique and relevant visual properties imparted by contrast polarity in perceptual organization and in eliciting amodal completion, which is the vivid completion of a single continuous object of the visible parts of an occluded shape despite portions of [...] Read more.
In this work, we demonstrated unique and relevant visual properties imparted by contrast polarity in perceptual organization and in eliciting amodal completion, which is the vivid completion of a single continuous object of the visible parts of an occluded shape despite portions of its boundary contours not actually being seen. T-junction, good continuation, and closure are considered the main principles involved according to relevant explanations of amodal completion based on the simplicity–Prägnanz principle, Helmholtz’s likelihood, and Bayesian inference. The main interest of these approaches is to explain how the occluded object is completed, what is the amodal shape, and how contours of partially visible fragments are relatable behind an occluder. Different from these perspectives, amodal completion was considered here as a visual phenomenon and not as a process, i.e., the final outcome of perceptual processes and grouping principles. Therefore, the main question we addressed through our stimuli was “What is the role of shape formation and perceptual organization in inducing amodal completion?” To answer this question, novel stimuli, similar to limiting cases and instantiae crucis, were studied through Gestalt experimental phenomenology. The results demonstrated the domination of the contrast polarity against good continuation, T-junctions, and regularity. Moreover, the limiting conditions explored revealed a new kind of junction next to the T- and Y-junctions, respectively responsible for amodal completion and tessellation. We called them I-junctions. The results were theoretically discussed in relation to the previous approaches and in the light of the phenomenal salience imparted by contrast polarity. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Imagery-Mediated Verbal Learning Depends on Vividness–Familiarity Interactions: The Possible Role of Dualistic Resting State Network Activity Interference
Brain Sci. 2019, 9(6), 143; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci9060143 - 18 Jun 2019
Cited by 3
Abstract
Using secondary database analysis, we tested whether the (implicit) familiarity of eliciting noun-cues and the (explicit) vividness of corresponding imagery exerted additive or interactive influences on verbal learning, as measured by the probability of incidental noun recall and image latency times (RTs). Noun-cues [...] Read more.
Using secondary database analysis, we tested whether the (implicit) familiarity of eliciting noun-cues and the (explicit) vividness of corresponding imagery exerted additive or interactive influences on verbal learning, as measured by the probability of incidental noun recall and image latency times (RTs). Noun-cues with incongruent levels of vividness and familiarity (high/low; low/high, respectively) at encoding were subsequently associated at retrieval with the lowest recall probabilities, while noun-cues related with congruent levels (high/high; low/low) were associated with higher recall probabilities. RTs in the high vividness and high familiarity grouping were significantly faster than all other subsets (low/low, low/high, high/low) which did not significantly differ among each other. The findings contradict: (1) associative theories predicting positive monotonic relationships between memory strength and learning; and (2) non-monotonic plasticity hypothesis (NMPH), aiming at generalizing the non-monotonic relationship between a neuron’s excitation level and its synaptic strength to broad neural networks. We propose a dualistic neuropsychological model of memory consolidation that mimics the global activity in two large resting-state networks (RSNs), the default mode network (DMN) and the task-positive-network (TPN). Based on this model, we suggest that incongruence and congruence between vividness and familiarity reflect, respectively, competition and synergy between DMN and TPN activity. We argue that competition or synergy between these RSNs at the time of stimulus encoding disproportionately influences long term semantic memory consolidation in healthy controls. These findings could assist in developing neurophenomenological markers of core memory deficits currently hypothesized to be shared across multiple psychopathological conditions. Full article
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Review

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Open AccessReview
I Am Conscious, Therefore, I Am: Imagery, Affect, Action, and a General Theory of Behavior
Brain Sci. 2019, 9(5), 107; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci9050107 - 10 May 2019
Cited by 4
Abstract
Organisms are adapted to each other and the environment because there is an inbuilt striving toward security, stability, and equilibrium. A General Theory of Behavior connects imagery, affect, and action with the central executive system we call consciousness, a direct emergent property of [...] Read more.
Organisms are adapted to each other and the environment because there is an inbuilt striving toward security, stability, and equilibrium. A General Theory of Behavior connects imagery, affect, and action with the central executive system we call consciousness, a direct emergent property of cerebral activity. The General Theory is founded on the assumption that the primary motivation of all of consciousness and intentional behavior is psychological homeostasis. Psychological homeostasis is as important to the organization of mind and behavior as physiological homeostasis is to the organization of bodily systems. Consciousness processes quasi-perceptual images independently of the input to the retina and sensorium. Consciousness is the “I am” control center for integration and regulation of (my) thoughts, (my) feelings, and (my) actions with (my) conscious mental imagery as foundation stones. The fundamental, universal conscious desire for psychological homeostasis benefits from the degree of vividness of inner imagery. Imagery vividness, a combination of clarity and liveliness, is beneficial to imagining, remembering, thinking, predicting, planning, and acting. Assessment of vividness using introspective report is validated by objective means such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). A significant body of work shows that vividness of visual imagery is determined by the similarity of neural responses in imagery to those occurring in perception of actual objects and performance of activities. I am conscious; therefore, I am. Full article
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Other

Open AccessEditor’s ChoiceCase Report
The Architect Who Lost the Ability to Imagine: The Cerebral Basis of Visual Imagery
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(2), 59; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10020059 - 21 Jan 2020
Cited by 3
Abstract
While the loss of mental imagery following brain lesions was first described more than a century ago, the key cerebral areas involved remain elusive. Here we report neuropsychological data from an architect (PL518) who lost his ability for visual imagery following a bilateral [...] Read more.
While the loss of mental imagery following brain lesions was first described more than a century ago, the key cerebral areas involved remain elusive. Here we report neuropsychological data from an architect (PL518) who lost his ability for visual imagery following a bilateral posterior cerebral artery (PCA) stroke. We compare his profile to three other patients with bilateral PCA stroke and another architect with a large PCA lesion confined to the right hemisphere. We also compare structural images of their lesions, aiming to delineate cerebral areas selectively lesioned in acquired aphantasia. When comparing the neuropsychological profile and structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for the aphantasic architect PL518 to patients with either a comparable background (an architect) or bilateral PCA lesions, we find: (1) there is a large overlap of cognitive deficits between patients, with the very notable exception of aphantasia which only occurs in PL518, and (2) there is large overlap of the patients’ lesions. The only areas of selective lesion in PL518 is a small patch in the left fusiform gyrus as well as part of the right lingual gyrus. We suggest that these areas, and perhaps in particular the region in the left fusiform gyrus, play an important role in the cerebral network involved in visual imagery. Full article
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Open AccessReply
On the Role of Contrast Polarity: In Response to van der Helm’s Comments
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(1), 54; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10010054 - 17 Jan 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
In this work, we discussed and counter-commented van der Helm’s comments on our previous paper (Pinna and Conti, Brain Sci., 2019, 9, 149), where we demonstrated unique and relevant visual properties imparted by contrast polarity in eliciting amodal completion. The [...] Read more.
In this work, we discussed and counter-commented van der Helm’s comments on our previous paper (Pinna and Conti, Brain Sci., 2019, 9, 149), where we demonstrated unique and relevant visual properties imparted by contrast polarity in eliciting amodal completion. The main question we addressed was: “What is the role of shape formation and perceptual organization in inducing amodal completion?” To answer this question, novel stimuli were studied through Gestalt experimental phenomenology. The results demonstrated the domination of the contrast polarity against good continuation, T-junctions, and regularity. Moreover, the limiting conditions explored revealed a new kind of junction next to the T- and Y-junctions, respectively responsible for amodal completion and tessellation. We called them I-junctions. The results were theoretically discussed in relation to the previous approaches and in the light of the phenomenal salience imparted by contrast polarity. In counter-commenting van der Helm’s comments we went into detail of his critiques and rejected all of them point-by-point. We proceeded by summarizing hypotheses and discussion of the previous work, then commenting on each critique through old and new phenomena and clarifying the meaning of our previous conclusions. Full article
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Open AccessComment
Dubious Claims about Simplicity and Likelihood: Comment on Pinna and Conti (2019)
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(1), 50; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10010050 - 16 Jan 2020
Cited by 2
Abstract
Pinna and Conti (Brain Sci., 2019, 9, 149, doi:10.3390/brainsci9060149) presented phenomena concerning the salience and role of contrast polarity in human visual perception, particularly in amodal completion. These phenomena are indeed illustrative thereof, but here, the focus is on their [...] Read more.
Pinna and Conti (Brain Sci., 2019, 9, 149, doi:10.3390/brainsci9060149) presented phenomena concerning the salience and role of contrast polarity in human visual perception, particularly in amodal completion. These phenomena are indeed illustrative thereof, but here, the focus is on their claims (1) that neither simplicity nor likelihood approaches can account for these phenomena; and (2) that simplicity and likelihood are equivalent. I argue that their first claim is based on incorrect assumptions, whereas their second claim is simply untrue. Full article
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Open AccessPerspective
Insights from a Bibliometric Analysis of Vividness and Its Links with Consciousness and Mental Imagery
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(1), 41; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10010041 - 10 Jan 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
We performed a bibliometric analysis of the peer-reviewed literature on vividness between 1900 and 2019 indexed by the Web of Science and compared it with the same analysis of publications on consciousness and mental imagery. While we observed a similarity between the citation [...] Read more.
We performed a bibliometric analysis of the peer-reviewed literature on vividness between 1900 and 2019 indexed by the Web of Science and compared it with the same analysis of publications on consciousness and mental imagery. While we observed a similarity between the citation growth rates for publications about each of these three subjects, our analysis shows that these concepts rarely overlap (co-occur) in the literature, revealing a surprising paucity of research about these concepts taken together. A disciplinary analysis shows that the field of Psychology dominates the topic of vividness, even though the total number of publications containing that term is small and the concept occurs in several other disciplines such as Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence. The present findings suggest that without a coherent unitary framework for the use of vividness in research, important opportunities for advancing the field might be missed. In contrast, we suggest that an evidence-based framework (such as the bibliometric analytic methods as exemplified here) will help to guide research from all disciplines that are concerned with vividness and help to resolve the challenge of epistemic incommensurability amongst published research in multidisciplinary fields. Full article
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