Research into the neural correlates of individual differences in imagery vividness point to an important role of the early visual cortex. However, there is also great fluctuation of vividness within individuals, such that only looking at differences between people necessarily obscures the picture. In this study we show that variation in moment-to-moment experienced vividness of visual imagery, within human subjects, depends on the activity of a large network of brain areas, including frontal, parietal and visual areas. Furthermore, using a novel multivariate analysis technique, we show that the neural overlap between imagery and perception in the entire visual system correlates with experienced imagery vividness. This shows that the neural basis of imagery vividness is much more complicated than studies of individual differences seemed to suggest.
Significance statement: Visual imagery is the ability to visualise objects that are not in our direct line of sight; something that is important for memory, spatial reasoning and many other tasks. It is known that the better people are at visual imagery, the better they can perform these tasks. However, the neural correlates of moment-to-moment variation in visual imagery remain unclear. In this study we show that the more the neural response during imagery is similar to the neural response during perception, the more vivid or perception-like the imagery experience is.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
This research was supported by VIDI grant number 639.072.513 of The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO).