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Abstract

Visual mental imagery is our ability to reactivate and manipulate visual representations in the absence of the corresponding visual stimuli, giving rise to the experience of ‘seeing with the mind's eye’. Until relatively recently, visual mental imagery had been investigated by philosophy and cognitive psychology. However, these disciplines did not have the tools required to address empirically some of the important questions they had raised, for instance the extent to which visual mental images rely on some of the same representations that support visual perception. During the last two decades, cognitive neuroscience has leveraged the vast amount of knowledge about the neural basis of primate vision to provide new insights into visual mental imagery processes. Such insights enabled the empirical test of key questions about visual mental imagery using the armamentarium of tools provided by cognitive neuroscience, including electrophysiology and neuroimaging. Using a similar logic, we propose that information about the neural basis of memory systems should be used to further enhance understanding of the neural mechanisms of visual mental imagery. WIREs Cogni Sci 2011 2 239–252 DOI: 10.1002/wcs.103

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