Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison recently challenged notions of imagination and reality in discovering a concrete separation. Researchers asked testing subjects to either imagine scenarios or to watch videos, and then tracked their brain’s electrical activities to analyze movement.


The study, entitled “Reversal of Cortical Information Flow During Visual Imagery as Compared to Visual Perception” marks the “first quantitative demonstration of theorized connectivity reversal.” To analyze and quantify brain activity, scientists used high-density EEG recordings.


The study's results may help to better understand sleep and memory formation.

The study’s results may help to better understand sleep and memory formation.

The study resulted in “the first direct demonstration of a reversal of the predominant direction of cortical signal flow during mental imagery as compared to perception.”


They found that depending on whether one is engaged with imagination or reality, brain activity flows in opposite directions. If you’re imagining something, a path in one direction will be taken; if the object of your consideration is grounded in reality, an opposite path will be taken. Imagining something, as opposed to perceiving something, actually reverses the path direction of electrical activity.


Barry Van Veen, a collaborator on the study and a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madision, stressed the importance of having determined the role of direction in brain activity. He said, “I think this is really a new theme that had not been explored.”


Researchers involved in the study are hopeful that their success will help to better understand the brain’s role in sleep and memory encoding. Starting to focus more on direction in the brain may help to discover more about the organ’s processes and significance.


How do you think that considering brain activity in terms of direction can help to change our perspective? Let me know below, or on Twitter @ryanlawlessness