University Neuroscientist Explores Imagination in Public Talk

Matt Di Miceli
Dr Matt Di Miceli

Dr Matt Di Miceli, Lecturer in Biomedical Science, who specialises in neuroscience and electrophysiology, will be giving a free talk at The Hive, titled ‘Limitless Imagination - How does our brain produce imagination?’, on Tuesday, March 5, 7pm-8pm.

Dr Di Miceli said: “It’s about understanding why is imagination so important in humans and why our brain is actually processing this, how does it actually benefit us? This is an area of science where there is still little research. In neuroscience, although we’ve advanced in histology, anatomy and biochemistry, I think psychology research has progressed more in terms of understanding cognitive processes, so it’s interesting to explore what we know so far.”

Imagination involves forming new ideas or concepts outside of our immediate reality.

Dr Di Miceli said: “The brain is lazy. It will use minimum effort so you will draw from what you know to try to create something unknown. For example, if you’re asked to imagine a person riding on a lion, your brain will draw out what you know of the lion (aspects, shape, form) and will do the same for the person, before it combines all of this into image, via the associative cortex. You’re drawing on what you know and transposing it into the future.”

Alongside the scientific process behind imagination, Dr Di Miceli will also look at conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder and schizophrenia and how imagination plays into that. He will also look at the way that drugs can either stimulate imagination or be used to control it.

He said it is believed that imagination is what sets us apart from other species. “Humans have developed a large frontal cortex to try to process forward future thinking and imagination is key in that,” he said. “We can imagine something that will have a benefit to people, we can imagine events will happen, so this is important in our development as a species in areas like technology, such as space exploration.

“In terms of immediate survival, other species know about imminent danger, fight or flight response, and they know about actions and consequences, but not beyond a certain limited sphere of interaction, such as prey and predators, for example.”

The talk will involve some interactive polling, so people are asked to bring a phone or device that has internet access.

Places must be booked in advance through The Hive website.