Monday, January 14, 2008

Vivid Memory of the Past Linked to Imagination of the Future

Washington University scientists have found that the patterns of brain activation seen in vivid recollections of the past are very closely linked to prompted imaginations of the future.

The full length paper is available at the link below. Study subjects had more vivid future projections if the prompts relied on contexts or environments that they were familiar with, and the the activation of brain areas association with autobiographical or personally-experienced memory back this up.

A number of implications come to mind. When a child has trouble imagining themselves in future events or circumstances, is it simply a lack of planning, or could a weakness in their personal memory make it hard for them to visualize what this situation would be like. And on the other end of the continuum, is that why vivid personal learners can be such intractable daydreamers? They can perceive such vivid possibilities of imagined events, that external events may find it hard to compete.

These days, imagination seems to carry little weight in importance as students advance in their K-12 years of education, but this is a mistake. Students may not always know how to use their memories and imaginations well, but efficient applications of both are the essential ingredients for almost all creative and innovative work.

So, if you are feeling a little fatigued by your high energy, vivid, imaginative, dreamy, personal learner, also count your blessings. In other studies, a loss of imagination (in older adults) was seen to be associated decline in personal memory.

Another take-home point, positive, emotionally-touching personal experiences not only impact profoundly on memory; they can have powerful influences on a person's outlook on the future.

Episodic future thought and remembering
Seeing the Future and fMRI
Lack of Imagination in Older Adults Linked to Declining Memory

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