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Cannot Visualise (Part Three) (Last Edited: 2010 Sep 25)

2008 December 6

Go back to Part 2

This is the final part of a three part series about migraine. You can use the links above or at the end of this page to go back. Or you can jump to any part from the Visualisation FAQs page link; where you can read my list of reported problems.

Please note: This series is now very out of date. I am in the process of updating them with new research that I have found. To learn more, please click this link: https://porillion.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/visualization-forming-mental-images-and-episodic-memory-updates-to-come/

I am also thinking about setting up an online support forum for people with no/low visualization. If you would be interested in this, please leave a comment to the post: https://porillion.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/do-you-want-a-support-forum-if-you-cannot-visualise/


In this final part of the series, I talk about my memory problems. There are two clear aspects about them. The first is that I can’t be sure how much relates to my inability to visualise. The second is that medical science doesn’t seem to recognise persistent episodic amnesia as a condition.

The only people I’ve met who say they have as bad an inability to visualise also say they have very poor episodic memory. So I suspect the two are related. This is why I have taken to calling the condition persistent visualisation deficit, or PVD.

One phrase one of the two people used sums up the condition as it can refer to any event not just parting from a loved one. Writing in a thread (which unfortunately I have lost the link to), he said that when he left someone he loved it was like they no longer existed. At first he found this very distressing. In some ways, there was a sense of loss. After all, if it was someone he cared about he couldn’t picture their face at all. After a while, he slowly came to adapt to the ‘loss’ and the emotion lessened. For him, this became another source of discomfort, because now he felt that somehow this meant he didn’t really care. Which, he said, is clearly not how he felt when he was with the loved one. You can substitute the particular event – leaving a loved one – with any change during a day.

I have described it to the few I’ve talked to about it like this. Imagine you have a collection of many photographic albums. In them you have all the pictures you have taken during your life to date. You have lots of fond memories, and some not so fond. You have important reminders, including things your friends and family have said in conversations. They are special albums, as touching a photo also repeats what was said in those conversations. Below each picture you have a few words like, “Paul and I in Spain in April 2000”.

Now, imagine someone has stolen all the talking photographs from your albums. You no longer have access to any of the vivid images from your past. Worse, you can no longer recall the conversations even from earlier in the week; never mind further back. All you have left are the short summaries. These are all that now hold the thread of your life together. So you know that you and Paul went to Spain in April 2000 (factual); but you can recall nothing without at least a lot of time and effort (episodic).

This is what it is like to live with PVD. Now imagine work and social environments. In a work environment, you can compensate by fixating on certain really vivid and unique features, say, like the clothes a customer wore when he visited. So if he visits again later, you may recall him. If your work has a visit log, then you can adapt and ‘cheat’ by working the conversation round to a way you can look up the visit. Carrying around and using a notebook is usually acceptable in work. In fact, with time and effort you can find any number of ways to adapt…

…except to social situations. Here you don’t have software to help you. And carrying around and using a notebook isn’t usually acceptable in social situations!! So now you find it very hard to adapt. You forget conversations. So you struggle to keep up with chit chat. By the time you recall, if you recall, what was said a day or more ago, the conversation has moved on. Worse, you forget important things – not just people’s names and faces, but that they said their brother was diagnosed with kidney failure.

To others, you may come across as forgetful (true) or worse, selfish and uncaring; socially awkward. In the end, this becomes isolating. And when you turn to medical science for help and answers, there is blank non-acceptance that there’s any problem.

At this time, I have no answer. Are we three the only people on the planet who cannot visualise and have persistent episodic amnesia? Are the two related as PVD? Is migraine in any way involved – one of the other two also has migraine; though this is a common condition. To date, I have no evidence that migraine plays a part, except that my migraine and PVD started sometime around the same point in my life.

  • Do you have persistent episodic amnesia? If so, do you have problems visualising too? Do you have migraine?
  • Or, if you have migraine or problems visualising, do you have what you see as normal episodic memory (memory and recall of life events, casual conversation and so on)?
  • Finally, are you a medical practitioner or researcher who has heard of something like PVD? Can you put a medical name to it?

If you can provide any answers, or if what I have written rings a bell with you and you have no answer, I’d like to hear from you.

Thank you for reading.

Go back to Part 2

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48 comments

  1. #Or, if you have migraine or problems visualising, do you #have what you see as normal episodic memory (memory #and recall of life events, casual conversation and so on)?

    I have problems visualizing things that I have never seen before, and I have an extremely hard time with directions, or putting myself in a map.

    I have migraine and visual snow/persistent migraine aura.

    I have VERY good episodic memory, very vivid vignettes, visuals, what I wore, who said what, how I felt, etc. The only real way I can navigate is by what intense event happened someplace: Drive down the street past where I talked about a serious health concern with one friend, go straight until I get to the hotel where I met a different friend’s family, turn right past the bus stop I waited at to get to my ex’s ex that one time, then stop under the bridge that looks like the one by so-and-so’s house.

    When I’m talking to someone else I leave all of the detail out and just seem to have idiosyncratic guideposts (ie, not really street signs or lights or distance). It works the other way too – whenever I drive down that street I will have an immediate and intense memory of talking about the health concern, etc. These can persist for years, though they do fade some over time.


    • Thanks, Hyrax.

      That’s very interesting. I’d assumed, perhaps, that the variability in visualising also applies to episodic memory. But in the experiment I talked about in Part Two, they asked subjects to imagine something – not recall something – visually.

      Your experience of imagining matches mine from your description (I dread giving directions!), but is completely different to my recall. So for me there is no difference between imagining something and recalling it; including not having intense memories triggered.

      Thanks for your comment.


  2. I too have trouble visualizing (imagining and recalling) and suffer from PEVA, but i do not have migraines.

    I can remember faces quite well actually, so i can remember people, just not a lot of what has been talked about, at least not without being reminded. But eventually I could forget anything, probably even how to ride a bike. There is one upside to all this though, I can watch a movie for the first time over and over and over again. hehe.

    I have always been like this as long as i can remember. There was a short episode of 3 days where i could visualize though, and that was when I found out there was something wrong in the first place. For those 3 days i actually had photographic memory – it was quite amazing to me really. You mentioned finding things around the house, for example, I knew exactly where everything was, even if my roommates had left it lying around, a image appeared in my minds eye of where it was.

    As best as I can tell this was brought on by yoga and meditation, and i have never had the the time to devote my self to doing these exercises since then. Or possibly it had nothing to do with those exercise at all, maybe i`ll find the time and energy to find out for certain.

    the thread you mentioned might have been http://forum.psychdaily.com/forum.php?t=2564
    that is how i found your blog

    Dominic


    • Hi, Dominic,

      Thanks for the link: That was the one I was talking about, but couldn’t find again. I’ll update my post with it later.

      What you’ve written is very interesting. As you do, I can remember faces (shapes, bananas!) in the sense that I recognise someone, or what something is, on seeing it. But I can’t form a picture of a person’s face, a shape, or whatever. (I think I may need to make that clearer in the original post.) I can relate to your watching a movie experience! That’s one of the few bonuses of this!

      I’ve not myself had a period of remission, but I think I used to have a very near photographic memory before it started. I do meditation myself; but started after the PEVA began, so aren’t sure if that’s relevant or not. Myself, I don’t think so but it’d be interesting to hear from others whether they have or have not done meditation or yoga. Certainly my own meditation practice hasn’t helped at all. The only near-onset experience I had was of hypnosis for stress, and as I mentioned the onset of my migraines.

      Thanks again for sharing your experience.
      Take care.


  3. “Do you have persistent episodic amnesia? If so, do you have problems visualising too? Do you have migraine?”

    Yes, yes and no.

    And there was me thinking I was the only one!

    Although there have been a handful of moments in my life when I’ve been thinking about a piece of music and all-of-a-sudden actually “heard” the piece I was previously thinking about to the point where I can “hear” it better than I can remember it (an auditory hallucination i suppose), I have failed to have any visual equivalent where my imaginings of a visual scene have resulted in me being able to actually visually experience it to any degree.
    Curiously if people close by suddenly realise I’m staring into space and ask me what I’m thinking about, I also fail to be able to put into words what my thought patterns were.

    Episodic memory is a big problem for me, unless the ‘episode’ is particularly emotionally charged.

    For instance I remember very well when my first love left me due to the intense anguish I felt at the time, yet even though she was arguably the most important person in my life at the time I am totally unable to tell you when we met, how long we were together for or when we split up.

    I also seem to take alot longer to remember stuff than most people. I can be reading page 100 of a book and only have a very vague awareness of what happened 10 pages ago. Only if I read the book several times over can I get a ‘coherent storyline’ out of it. Also, I tried a Pimsleur language course and even though I repeated the first lesson 5 or 6 times over still couldnt remember the content of the lesson to the same degree that most would remember in a single session.

    This has at times had a huge negative impact on my life to the point that I dismiss myself as thick and unable to learn or see how I can possibly get ahead in life however I manage to keep down a solid job earning above the regional average for my sector. I put this down to my compensatory skills similar to those that porillion has described. And also as described I have an extremely poor social life because I cant seem to follow conversation and social patterns as well as others. I am also totally unable to “filter” audio. I am truly amazed at the ability of some people to be able to follow what a friend is saying in a crowded bar as I strain to make out what they’re saying only being able to pick out a few words here and there.

    Wierd huh?


    • Thank you, Geoff. There’s a lot in what you say that rings bells with me. I even seem to have a much better audio memory than I suspect most people do. Maybe that’s a form of compensation? (I wonder if others have different forms of compensation?)

      I’m beginning to suspect that even among the people I’ve read of or heard from (or know) that what I’ve called PEVA (persistent episodic visual amnesia) varies. In my experience on migraine forums, that condition varies. So I suppose it should be no surprise that this is true of PEVA. Again, thank you Geoff for answering whether you had migraines. It’s beginning to look like my condition of having migraines is unrelated to my PEVA. And so PEVA is probably not related to migraine.

      I empathise with your reading experience. I still enjoy reading, even if I can’t visualise the images the author describes or easily follow the storyline. Instead I get a lot of satisfaction from “hearing” different actors voicing the characters! (Even if I do forget who I chose to voice those that appear less frequently!)

      I even have problems hearing people in a crowd. That’s an interesting point, Geoff. Thank you. I had just supposed that it was “one of those things”. Two swallows don’t make a summer, but I do wonder now whether that’s another symptom.

      The impression I get with my experience and what others have written about is that PEVA may be some kind of delaying/suppressing condition – though it’s interesting that it seems to go hand in hand with poor visualisation of imagined things too. My parents split up when I was 19 and I think it started some time after that (poor memory doesn’t help in recalling when, of course!). I wonder if PEVA is a defence mechanism (a form of dissociative amnesia?) to a trauma?

      Thanks again for your reply and for your candidness, Geoff.


  4. PEVA as a defence mechanism sits well in my mind considering my personal history. I see no need to go into huge detail, suffice to say I had a traumatic and neglected childhood.

    One thing that does strike me when reading my previous post and your reply is that the possible mechanisms in place for that big list of “deficiencies” we’ve managed to put together between us all probably requires good communication between different areas of the brain.

    Memory + visual processing for PEVA and
    Visual processing + language for reading for example.

    Now something I did read about depression in a medical journal (I cant remember where unfortunately) made a claim that those that suffered from depression, also, as a symptom displayed an unsynchronised memory.

    Now you have 3 different types of memory and if you just Google “Human Memory” you’ll have an explanation of how it works. What the article said was that although all 3 different types of memory work exactly as they should individually, they dont synchronise correctly so new information doesnt get passed from sensory memory to short-term to long-term memory as efficiently as it should.

    If only I could find the article, but its 1 in the morning at the moment and quite frankly I cant be a***ed right now.

    So the point I was making, was if depression has this effect on the synchronisation of memory, is it not possible that a specific set of psychosocial or brain chemistry factors could have a similar influence on the relationships between our imaginative faculties?


    • I must admit I’m leaning to a defence mechanism explanation. I was heavily bullied in my childhood, after which my parents separated and divorced. I seem to recall having had a good, perhaps too good, memory that suddenly changed in my early twenties.

      I like your idea of the communication between the different areas of the brain. (This is why I hope a qualified professional will one day find this thread.) Although I’ve called it “amnesia”, I’m not certain that’s a correct term. The nearest form of amnesia (dissociative amnesia) that I’ve read of as a non-expert suggests either a temporary effect, or one limited to a short time period that stays forgotten. I have very vivid dreams that often feature real places. But I have noted that they seem to be from my life before the onset of my own memory/conscious visualisation symptoms. If I’m dreaming of a later place I seem to substitute. For example, I worked recently at a university; which tends to be a distorted version of my high school. But if I dream of being in my high school, it seems at least to be a highly accurate portrayal.

      I did suffer from depression, and have wondered whether that this plays a part. I can understand not wanting to find the article at 1am!!! I’ll have a look later, but am very tired myself this morning. It’s not helping my keeping this blog up-to-date having to catch up from my latest cluster of migraines. From what I recall of ‘A’ level psychology (and the Oxford dictionary I have) this division into three sounds right.

      Thanks once again for your input, Geoff.
      Take care.


  5. I suffer this too, spoke about it in relation to how it’s made painting and drawing so much harder to Dr. Podoll of the Migraine Aura Foundation. He used to have a quote from me on the website under the handle Linzi about it. I have PMA, episodes of hemiplegic and basilar migraine plus more ordinary migraine with aura.

    This started for me at the same time as PMA while I was on a graphic design course so I had to drop out as not having a visual memory of any use and not being able to see text easily makes layout and design very awkward. I still love images and if I want to visualise now I can pretend what I want to see is in my peripheral vision and sneak something of a glimpse. No real detail but the shape of something.

    If I work at it I can focus on bits – can remember the shape of someone’s nostril – but I can’t remember scenes or complete faces. Words elude me a lot too. I forget what I was talking about and subject jump a lot during conversation.

    😦 “It’s all in your mind/caused by emotions” = “We have no program of treatment to prescribe and don’t want to risk our necks advocating for you”. I know it’s cynical sounding, but for what we go through I just don’t think there’s adequate support. I really don’t feel it’s psychosocial though I’ve had a traumatic childhood too I hate the over attribution of far ranging health complaints to it. No doubt it caused problems but I can’t see the correlation for me for this.

    It’s not *trouble* memorising, or visualising. It’s an abrupt stop in range. My minds eye and my vision are altered. I’m like you, too good a memory with an abrupt change in my early twenties. The onset of my PMA and memory problems coincided with a group of some of the most extreme aura in migraines I’ve had. If it were psychosocial – which I hoped it would be – I’d have expected to see some variation in it’s severity.

    I just keep wishing for the right advice and support to fall in my lap.


    • Hi, Lynsey,

      Thank you for your comment. You’re the first commenter that has said they have migraine, which from your description sounds similar to my experience. As more people share their own experience of an inability to visualise, it seems less clear what the underlying reason for it is. But I think it’s a good thing that we are talking about this: Until I found one thread on one website on the whole Internet that Google searched, I thought I was the only one! The more of us that talk about this, the more likely it is that it will get some recognition. At least that’s my hope. I wish I could suggest a support forum or sources of advice for what I’ve come to call “Persistent Episodic Visual Amnesia” (I made that up just to call it something! I’m not medically trained or anything) or PEVA. Just to give it some kind of label. But I know of none. Yet. My earnest hope is that a neurologist or other medical researcher has come across this and is investigating it, and will discover this site. In the meantime I can empathise with your last sentence.

      I can offer support sites for PMA – you can find a list on the PMA & Visual Snow FAQs tab.

      I wish you the best for the future. Keep popping back here from time to time, and visit the main site: https://porillion.wordpress.com You never know!

      Take care.


  6. I thought I ought to pop back and say since I forgot to last time that I’ve found Sudoku and like puzzles to help me develop coping skills for the reduced visual/memory agility. The cross-referencing that I used to do with a visual/memory faculty I’m learning to do with annotations and developing my language skills. It’s working on faculties I had but used less and it’s interesting in itself. Makes it clear how concentrating on different attributes broadens interests.

    πŸ™‚ Still stick on word recall. Didn’t want to use the word “faculty” here but couldn’t get the word I wanted and still can’t. Am sure there must be techniques that can help that too.


  7. Hey Porillion, I really enjoyed your article. I have a problem visualizing things as well, as well as what I though was just my memory fading (although I probably am younger than most people here, 17 in August).

    I’ll start with my visualization. It’s not as severe as yours, but I am unable to visualize anything about myself, including what I act like. I’m not sure if most people are able to visualize what they act like but I dont have the faintest clue. This wouldn’t be so bad but I have really horrible self-esteem (and I also had severe depression in the last few months as well as getting bullied when I was younger. The bullying wasn’t especially mean spirited but the circumstances led to emotional grief that I feel even today) and I ‘fill in the blanks’ of how I act and what I look like with exagurated awkward actions and, to be blunt, an assface. Having awkward/wierd parents and a lack of supermodels in my family tree keeps me wondering if my depictions of myself are crazy or accurate.

    My memory is something I’m seeing a pretty gradual decline in, showing especially in my grades. I really dread school, I can’t concentrate for nothing and lack alot of motivation. However I’ve always had a real good memory combined with a (not to sound arrogant) very logical and intelectual mind. I was able to remember snippets of information from class, daydream (I love daydreaming even though I can’t visualize well, I can recreate emotions, even some I haven’t experienced before, and create a unique kind of depth. I could go on about my daydreams but I don’t want to bore you to tears), and fill in all the missed information with common sense on tests, making A’s easy. However it’s seeming like my memory is slipping and I’m relying more and more on the logical part of my brain. This has led to lots of bad test grades, including my Latin class, which I did great in the first two semesters, but didn’t pass a single test this semester. The good news is I don’t give a s*** about school, so less stress for me.

    In arguements or conversations I have to anticipate what someone would say in my position so the dialouge isn’t slowed down by me having to take what could be minutes to but together a comprehensible thought backed by my own experiences or memories. This leads to me saying things that make sense, but I can’t back up with anything concrete. I can easily bs my way through a converstion like this, but I can’t argue or debate well at all.

    I hope that paragraph made some sort of sense.

    I also dabble in drugs (mostly pot) which I feared was the cause of my memory problem for some time (not ruling it out yet) but I am not a consistant user (smoke once a day for a week, then go two months sober). I enjoy the deeper thoughts I have, the release from the social anxiety I have, and the visualizations, auditory and visual, that are damn near hallucinations.

    I saw that Porillion compensated the lack of ability to form visualizations with the intelectual part of his brain when he talked about remembering where things were and such. Do you think that it has strengthened that part of your brain because you use it more than most people? Are you hypervigilant about your thoughts, meaning do you monitor most of, if not all of your thoughts? It may be common for people like us to do something like that, because if you ask me it’s possible there could be a large chunk of the population like us but don’t monitor thier thoughts, so wouldn’t pick up on a weak ability to visualize and might see PEVA as just poor memory.

    Thanks in advance
    Kevin.


    • Hi, Kevin,

      Thank you for your comment.

      First of all, I want to say that part of why I wrote about this on my blog is that I hope we can get answers eventually. At first I wasn’t sure how many other people there were affected by problems visualising and memory and how they may relate. Since I wrote about this, the statistics alone suggest there is a small percentage of people affected.

      If I may ask a question, I’m not sure whether your memory problems relate to factual memory or to memory of life events. In other words remembering things like the date of the Battle of Hastings (or American Civil War dates, depending on where you’re from!), etc. or remembering in visual form things that have happened to you. I’m interested in which, or both, of these affect you. For me and who I have heard from so far, it has been life events not facts. But you seem to be saying it’s facts too (or only facts)?

      In answer to your question, I’ve developed a logical and intuitive mind in tandem. I think I did this both before and after I noticed a sudden and dramatic change in my ability to visualise and in my episodic (life events) memory. I’m not sure whether I continued to do so in response to those changes, as I can’t turn the clock back and live a “normal” life! I’d say I’m only vigilant about my thoughts in the sense that I am a practising Buddhist, not because of the problems I have as such.


  8. Yeah I did leave out the part about remembering life events. Oops.

    What I have are very vauge thoughts, no visual memories, mostly factual, like your analogy of the photo album. I guess my factual memory just sucks just cause of drugs ha

    When I try to remember something, I remember it in the form of words, like a verbal description comes to mind instead of a picture.


    • Hi again, Kevin,

      Thanks for answering my question. Good luck to us all on getting answers on this! This is why I have written about it here. Can I suggest you check back from time to time in case I find more information, or a neurologist’s interest is ‘piqued’?

      Take care.


  9. Hi,

    I have found your blog while searching for “can not visualize” on Google πŸ˜‰

    Amazingly I have discovered, I am not the only one with Episodic Memory issue, too. I do not have migrains or headaches usualy, only intensive pain for few minutes, but once in few months (I have to add here, that a natural healer that I was in contact with actualy said that “you have migrains, you just don’t want to recognise it”).

    Regarding Episodic / Autobiographic memory:
    1. I became aware at age of 25 that something is strange with my memory:
    – I could not remember events from my childhood, except few very weak memories, connected to intensive “neagtive” emotions at time
    – Events in my past life tend to blurr, fade away rather quickly; I keep factual knowledge, but feelings, emotions, memories are gone – it is like having an erasor after events occur. Only few things remain.
    – I am terrible with dates and personal memory. On the other hand I am quite good with dates and factual memory.

    2. This condition seems since ever. However childhood seems almost completely “erased”. Few memories remain from high school, university … more from more recent years. What I do REMEMBER BETTER from more recent years (after University) are emotionaly intensed events: – in childhood it was rather “negative” emotions, more recently more very “positive” emotions and some “negative”.

    3. It seems I “shut down” emotional connection to a person, when he/she is not present. It in a way just “disappears” from my life until next occassion/meeting. It could be girlfriend, friend, family members …

    Part 2 is comming soon πŸ™‚


    • Hi, Marko,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s been very helpful to learn of your own experience. Once enough people have said what their experiences are, I’ll write a new post looking at what’s common and what differs. Can I ask whether the memories you do have are visual or not? In other words, can you easily form pictures in your mind of them?

      Take care.


      • Hi, I am greatful for your decision to solve Big Mistery πŸ™‚ Actualy few memories from childhood are all visual. I can see what happened then. It is like replaying it my mind. Also latter memories are mostly clearly visual … only sometimes it is like knowledge/feeling that I had these experiences, with not so clear or absent visual component … however even to connect all these experiences with any date or age of mine is kind of impossible. I have no clue when it happened, only roughly can remember period of my life. I am always amazed by people who say: ” when I was 3 yrs old, I did this and that”, “I first met my girlfriend on 19th February 2002” and such. I don’t remember when I met any of my girlfriends. For some time I was making something like diary in the past, but didnt help. It is funny however I am pretty good with dates, years and numbers on factual memory…


        • Here I am again, Part II on the way πŸ™‚

          On the other hand I find it interesting that in some foreign cities it was like Deja Vu feeling – everything was kind of known to me (Prague) or very easy to orientate (Hannover). Actualy I am very good navigator πŸ™‚

          What I have learned is also: the less you can remember past experiences, less you can plan your future. It has to do with “Mental time travel” – search it on Google.

          I do have a theory what happened to some of us: it could be either physical accident, or some medicine in our younger years, or …:
          our own psychological protection, so that we could survive. We became “detached” of our existing selves at one moment of our lives. SO now, at least for some of us, there are 2 of each: one we are aware of, and one we are not fully aware off. If we have managed to separate ourselves in the past, I fully believe that we can glue/fusion ourselves in the future. Or maybe today? If our desire is strong enough … we can do it. Everything is possible πŸ™‚


          • One more thing …

            look at this: http://www.memorylab.org/Research.htm

            It says Episodic memory is constructive in nature, suited to simulating future.. Now I can understand better, why it could be “shut down” in some cases. As it is constructive – for the future, simulated “outcome of the future” could be something we did not know how to handle, so we shut it down …

            Actualy I remember now, that I was speaking to before mentioned natural healer quite some months ago about my “loss” of episodic memory and he said exact same thing – I did this in order to survive …


          • Hi, Marko,

            Thank you for finding this site, it’s very interesting. I’ll read it more thoroughly, and may add a post on it with credit to you for finding it. My girlfriend is a nurse, and I also recently sat in with medical students (student doctors) as a training/teaching exercise. All of those noted that my own experience of “migraine” shows some overlap with a type of epilepsy called simple partial seizures. Reading around the subject, I had noted that epilepsy can cause damage to the hippocampus with associated recall and new memory creation problems. I need to do more research, I feel!

            Take care.


          • Hi, Marko,

            I think most people who have commented who have this visualisation/visual memory problem have a theory. I think that’s probably quite natural! At the moment, I simply can’t say from any objective viewpoint. It’s one of the answers I hope this website will eventually help us to get.

            Take care.


        • Hi, Marko,

          Thank you for sharing this. The more people who do so, the better picture we can get of how people’s visualisation and visual memory differs or is the same.

          Take care.


  10. Try thisas well …
    http://www.pnas.org/content/104/5/1726.full


    • interesting one
      http://www.memorylab.org/Files/Schacter_ANYAS_2008.pdf


      • Hi, Marko,

        Once again, you have my thanks for finding such an excellent article! πŸ˜€

        Take care.


    • Hi, Marko,

      Once again, my many thanks for finding this site.

      Take care.


  11. I have pretty much no ability to visualize, or to imagine sounds, tastes, touch, or smell either.

    And, I have very little in the way of episodic memories. I wouldn’t consider this to be amnesia, although I suppose it’s not an inappropriate term for it.

    It seems to me to be the natural result of not being able to imagine sensory data. If you can’t see images in your mind, how can you recall visual experiences?

    So, my memories consist of knowing that things happened, without the actual experiences actually being there to recall. With no memories to attach anything to, though, the feelings and probably often the knowing what happened fades away as well in time.

    It’s always been this way for me, I believe. I’m not terribly concerned about it, as I seem to be able to function well enough without episodic memory. From what I’ve observed, people have a wide range of visualization ablities, from nearly none to being able to see images in their minds as clearly as in real life. I’m guessing that people have a similiar range of episodic memory clarity, from photographic memory to nearly nothing.

    I don’t have migraines, by the way.


    • Hi, Michael,

      Your post seems to go to the heart of the first part of the debate: Whether the “amnesia” is really a condition, or within the normal range of how people can visualise. In other words, that not being able to visually recall episodic memory is simply an extension of a normal, if possibly rare, lack of ability to visualise. My partner would seem to fit into this first category. But I, and many others here, do seem to have social problems and other side-symptoms that suggest there can be a related problem. The difficulty here is defining it, and working out whether it is related to visualisation, or a separate more “known of” problem that we’ve come to associated with our unusual inability to visualise. And that’s the debate!

      Thank you for your contribution, and for answering the question on migraine.

      Take care.


  12. I’ve always, for as long as I can remember not been able to visualize anything. I find it very frustrating and would like to learn more about why that may be, although there seems to be a serious lack of information, and an abundance of confusion on the topic.

    When I close my eyes and try to visualize anything, even something simple like a line or circle, I just cant do it, I just see black. I do however dream occasionally, and rarely remember what its about, tho that has changed under the effect of some prescription drugs for unrelated issues.

    I beleive that because of my inability to visualize causes my “forgetfullness”. I’m generally not able to recall events in my life without a trigger such as a photo, similar event, something someone has said..ect.

    If you asked me to describe my father, I could give you a very vague description that would probably describe half the city, but when I see him obviosly I recognize him instantly. It’s things like these that really bother me.

    In regards to the migraines, yes I have on and off periods of severe and frequent migraines, but they have never really gone away.

    I’m not exactly proud to admit it, but there was a point in my life at a younger age where I tried mild hallucinagens, and even then unlike my friends claim I did not “see stuff” that didnt exist, it was more like my enviroment was changed, for example colors were more vivid, normally unacknowledged details such as the vein like texture of a wall was more apperant. not sure this is relevant but it seemed to fall in the same ball park.

    Thank you for providing us with an interesting and well thought out article on the topic, and if you know of anywhere I could further look into it, I would greatly appreciate it.


    • Hi, AJ,

      Thank you for a very interesting and informative comment.

      So far, the only information I have been able to gather on this topic beyond that which I posted, is from comments like yours. I have recently updated the posts to take account of these. Sadly, I can still find no publically available research to offer any insights into persistent inability to visualize and the apparent “episodic” (or life-event) memory problems that seem to go along with it. Can I suggest calling back here from time to time and also reading the comments others have written if you have not done so?

      Take care.


  13. I suffer from a lack of mental imagery. I didn’t even realize that I had this problem until

    I’ve had mild depression and social anxiety for most of my life. I started eating a low carb diet and eating much less gluten, which started to give me more energy and less anxiety.

    Then suddenly for a week I had an ability to visualize that I didn’t know was possible. The most intense part was the empathy for others. I could easily picture myself in their situation, and this allowed me to enjoy social interaction much more as well as watching movies and TV. I could picture colors and rotating objects in my head and could even somewhat imagine things such as a dancing man on my car dashboard when my eyes were open.

    After that week, my depression came back, worse than ever, and my memory has gone downhill. I miss the empathy so much, and hope that if I can rid myself of depression, the memory and visualization will come back. That week was the best time I’ve had in many years.


    • Hi,

      Thank you for your interesting and informative post.

      I’m sorry that your depression has returned, and that your visualization symptoms have returned. I do think, though, that your experience may prove interesting in the event that a researcher finds this blog in the future. I plan on approaching my new doctor soon about my own problem, and will mention your experience to her. I should say that anyone else reading this who is thinking of trying a dietary change should of course consult with their doctor first.

      I hope things improve for you in the near future.

      Take care.


  14. I am currently 54 I too have memory and visualization problems. 5 years ago my father died and that brought on depresion because I relized I was getting older and had few memories of the past to comfort me as I get older. What makes it hard is my wife has vivid memories of her past and finds it hard to understand how I can do things without being able to visualize. My daughter works for a marketing research company called the right brain people that their research is based on people being able to visulize experinences. When she was traing I went as a test subject and totaly fluncked out.


    • Hi, Russel,

      Thank you for your comment and for sharing your experience.

      If the small sample of comments can be believed, then there do seem to be certain things in common – in the sense that they generally overlap. These are: food intolerances and/or auto-immune disorder, depression and/or anxiety, trauma, or migraine. One thing I have read recently but sadly not been able to write in the pages and posts yet is that these tend to be known to coincide with alexithymia. This is a state of “deficiency in understanding, processing, or describing emotions in oneself” (Wikipedia). Though I am not suggesting that this is true for people with “PVD”, one or two have noted that the condition inhibits their ability to fully empathise with others – in the sense of seeing themselves “in their mind’s eye” in the shoes of another; rather than the fuller definition of sharing in another’s emotions and feelings. It seems that migraine, depression/anxiety and conditions such as irritable bowel are also known to commonly co-exist (as well, oddly, as endometreosis) (Wikipedia). And it has been suggested that migraine can be induced by some kind of childhood trauma (a recent news report).

      All of this makes me wonder whether PVD is another part of a set of closely-linked medical problems.

      Once again, I wish I could offer some practical help with your memory and visualisation problems, which of course I share. Sadly, I have yet to find any evidence that medical science even recognises that this is an issue for some people; never mind any active research into this.

      Take care.


  15. Hi,
    I wanted to thank you for your site. I am unable to visualize also. This include any other sensory memory including auditory, touch, taste…… I am 39 years old and get by stricly on knowing instead of remembering. I have asked every doctor I have ever encountered for help and cant seem to get anyone to understand let alone be interested in studying it. Sometimes I am okay with it and sometimes it really bothers me. I talked with a researcher at the Rotman Institute names Brian Levine. He seems interested in the subject. If you are able to contact him you seem like you might be able to communicate to problem more clearly. It is extremely hard to maintain friendships. I like people who talk alot because then I dont have to contribute much to conversations. It takes me too long to come up with replies especially when it comes to subjects like movies and music. Hopefully I wont end up in a nursing home by the time I am 50! Thanks again.
    Jeff


    • Hi, Jeff,

      Thank you for your comment, and your suggestion that I contact Brian Levine. I will look into this. Your finishing sentence reminds me of the moment, a couple of weeks ago, when my GP talked of sending me to a memory clinic in the same sentence as “normally only for people with dementia”! Your message is a timely reminder that I need to do a formal read through of all the comments so far and put numbers on things.

      I’m glad to that you are finding the site helpful. When I first set it up, I honestly thought only the one other person online I’d read about had a similar problem. Though it’s not strictly “nice” to know I’m not alone, it makes it more likely in the long run that someone professional may take an interest and we’ll all get some answers at least. Hopefully.

      Take care.


  16. Thank you for this website. So many of the problems discussed here are true for me too. I, too, cannot visualize in any meaningful way, not even simple shapes.

    I have a very limited memory of life events, unless, as someone said before, there is some extreme emotional trigger to the event. I remember a handful of snatches from my entire life. Friends and family remind me of vacations, get togethers, movies we have seen, anything we have done together, and I usually am lucky to remember it happened at all. As others have said, it becomes very difficult socially. I appear to care so little about shared experiences with people that I immediately forget them. I seem intelligent otherwise, so it does not make any sense that I can’t remember most things that I have done in the past.

    I need to meet people multiple times to remember them, and after a longish absence, I will still usually forget their face, their name or where I know them from. I am shy and socially anxious, always afraid of not acknowledging someone I know, saying the wrong thing or not being able to think of anything to say at all. There is a constant, low-grade sadness about it all.

    I have the same problem reading books as someone mentioned before, in that I do not remember what I’ve read very well. I easily lose track of what has happened in a book and I’ve resorted to jotting down notes for each chapter even when I’m reading a book for fun. I got lost reading the Harry Potter books and finally gave up trying to keep track of the events.

    I have wondered if my visualization problems could be related the high myopia I developed as a child. Maybe having fuzzy vision affected my mind’s inclination to begin or continue forming mental images at some key point in my development. I have never had migraines as far as I know, except for a flashing light episode that the doctor diagnosed as a type of non-painful migraine.


    • Hi,

      Thank you for sharing your experience, and my apology for the delay in approving your comment. I’ve been having PC and Internet problems.

      I think most of the readers here share your experience, I know I certainly do. It’s interesting that you mention myopia, as I too have poor eyesight. Though it seems hard to understand how that may relate. I’ve always tried to look on the bright side – I can watch old films or TV series again after a while as if I’d never seen them! But socialization is a particular problem.

      I wish you the best for the future. Please do check back from time to time, as I remain hopeful that a researcher may one day pick up on this.

      Take care.


  17. First I’d just like to say thank your for your work on this website. It is comforting to find that there are others out there like me. I too suffer from the lack of visualization ability. It is difficult for me to say when it began, however I have only come to realize it within the past year or two (I’m not 24). Several discussions with friends led me to begin thinking about it. We would talk about visualizing things in our minds eye, and for a while, I assumed that we were all kind of talking about the same thing, but that they were over embellishing or exaggerating. I would ask “do you actually SEE it in your mind?” to which they would answer “yes. well, I don’t actually SEEEEE it, but I see it….” which just led me to confusion and not clearly understanding the difference between myself and others. The more we talked about it though, the more it became apparent that I lack the ability to visualize things in my mind the way others do. If someone describes a new object that I have never seen before, it is impossible for me to form a mental image of what it would look like. However, I can sit down and attempt to draw it simply based on the facts that they gave me, then looking at it, it begins to make sense to me. If I close my eyes and try to picture sitting by the ocean, even if someone is describing it to me in vivid detail, I do not form a mental picture of it. When I discuss the problem with people, it is difficult for them to comprehend it… People find it fascinating. I find it troublesome, however I feel I have adapted fairly well and am able to function somewhat normally even without the ability to visualize (except for the memory issues, see below). After all, if someone asks me to describe an object or something, I find that I am able to rattle off a list of facts about it, without ever forming a picture of it.

    I enjoy art, and in fact, I am planning on returning to school to pursue an art degree. But my issue is that I can look at something and draw it, but when it comes to starting with a blank page and just drawing something out of my own imagination, I don’t even know where to begin.
    Closing my eyes results in a swirling mass of blackness. I am not able to even visualize shapes in my mind.
    I remember things in terms of a list of facts, not in a visual image. Like others, I am ok at remembering facts from a textbook, but my memory of my own life is atrocious. I forget entire conversations. I am horrible with dates. Friends tell me important things and a day later they bring it up and it’s like I’m hearing it for the first time. This is troublesome socially because often times people will think I just don’t care or aren’t paying attention to them when we speak, which isn’t the case. Fortunately I have an understanding girlfriend who doesn’t get offended by this, but it annoys me to not be able to relate to people how I would like.
    If I watch a movie, after it is over I couldn’t tell you any characters name except maybe a main character. I will sit down to watch a movie, and get 30 minutes into it before realizing I already watched the movie a couple weeks ago. When reading a book, I find it very difficult to remember what happened a few pages, paragraphs, or sentences ago.
    I am terrible at placing new friends’ names with their faces, mainly because I have already forgotten their face within 5 minutes of meeting them. I have found facebook to be a great help in remembering people’s names because it allows me to see their name next to their face, which for some reason helps me. I too remember events that are emotionally charged.
    Over the course of the past year or two I have become very interested in photography, in part because it is an art form that I am capable of without having to create from my own mind. Moreover, however, it is a way for me to document my life and have hard copies of events that most people would have stored in memory.

    As far as the migraines go, I do not have any to speak of now. When I was a teenager, I used to get severe headaches fairly often, however I never visited a doctor so was not diagnosed with anything. I don’t know if it was migraines or not.

    A couple people here mentioned their use of pot or psychedelics. I have often wondered if this has something to do with it, although I know plenty of others who have equal or more drug experience who do not face this issue. In fact, one of the things I like about psychedelics is the temporary return of my ability to create imagery with my eyes closed. Even pot can provide this once in a while.

    This is not something I expect to see a large amount of research attention devoted to, as it seems there is a relatively small number of people suffering from it. Although, there are probably a lot more than we are aware of, and there are probably many more who simply don’t realize that it can be any other way. It would be nice though to have some answers.

    PS – i also have poor eyesight, but am not sure there is a correlation.


    • that was I’m *now* 24, not ‘not’.


    • Hi, Moracca,

      Thank you for your comment, and for sharing detailed information. Much of what you write applies to me, and seems to apply (to varying degrees) to most commenters also. For example, I’m currently enjoying a re-run of a ’90’s TV series my partner and I love as if I’d never watched it the first time around. I’m going to a local hospital for a “memory clinic” assessment with regard to all of this, having finally plucked up the courage myself. I’m about to announce that “officially”, and will update it with a later post with any result (or lack of).

      Take care.


  18. Ive been reading and saying.. Ohh! Me too! Im in the same boat as everyones here. I also have memory and visualization problems as far back as I can remember. I always assumed mine stemmed from traumatic events when I was a teenager. My mom passed away when I was 14 and I dont remember anything about her other than a very few vague memories. I still have the saddness when I mention her but nothing to attach it to.
    If it means anything, I have migraines too.


    • Hi, Rainy,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m in the process of updating the website, having found a lot of research into various aspects of memory (and some involving visualization). It’ll be some little time though before I post it, so do check back!

      In the meantime, I hope you don’t mind if I e-mail you to ask whether you’d like me to set up a support forum online for low/no visualization. (Don’t worry, only I can read your e-mail address on your post, no-one else can see it.) Alternatively, if you are reading my reply, you can leave a comment if you would like to me to do so at the post: https://porillion.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/do-you-want-a-support-forum-if-you-cannot-visualise/

      Kind regards.


  19. In spite of being unable to visualize, I have better than average episodic memory long-term. I can describe situations and experiences in casual conversation very quickly and with much detail

    My short-term memory is rather poor. I often cannot tell you what I did yesterday or twenty minutes ago.

    No migranes are present, but I often experience vertigo just before the waking-hypnogogic-sleep transition.


    • Hi, Kate,

      Thank you for your comment. I will reply more to your longer post elsewhere.

      Take care.


    • Hi, Russell,

      Thanks for this link. That’s amazing, and very worrying at the same time. I should point out, I suppose, that one case does not necessarily mean everyone who cannot visualize has brain damage: Other conditions may cause some kind of deficit, and there may be a wide healthy spectrum of visualization ability. But it does add a tiny piece of weight to our argument that PVD – persistent visualization deficit – needs to be taken more seriously by the medical community.

      I’ve taken a note of the URL and will add that article to my research that I am doing to update the site.

      Many thanks.



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