Study: Our brains look at imagination a lot like reality


Monitors Show EEG Reading and Graphical Brain Model. In the Background Laboratory Man Wearing Brainwave Scanning Headset Sits in a Chair with Closed Eyes. In the Modern Brain Study Research Laboratory

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BOULDER — A new study from CU Boulder shows when it comes to imagination, our brains can perceive it to be a lot like reality. 

According to the lead researcher, Marianne Reddan, who spent five years working on the project, the study looks at how people can imagine something they learned through personal experiences that may have been threatening or dangerous — but by virtue of their imagination, they can change the way their body and mind react to it when they’re re-exposed to it in the real world.

In the study, 68 people were trained to be afraid of a sound they had never heard before by pairing it with shock, Reddan explained.

"And then we had them imagine that sound by playing the sound in their head to the best of their ability over and over again,” she said.

By virtue of this imagination, the participants were able to tap into some fear based circuitry that’s unconscious and change the value associated with the sound.

Researchers are hoping these finding will help some people recover from traumatic experiences.

"I think it says something actually quite profound [about humans]. I think it means you possess within yourself this profound tool to really change the way you experience your world - just by virtue of your imagination,” Reddan said.

There’s a lot more to the study, which you can read in its entirety by clicking here.

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