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Imagine you are walking along a tropical beach. You can feel the warm sand between your toes, the gentle breeze on your face, the warm sun on your face.

You can do it right?
But where is your imagination? It’s a concept we understand and use, but its location in the brain has remained a mystery, until now.

It turns out the hippocampus, the area of our brain associated with learning and memory can distinguish between remembering the past and imaging the future. Nifty eh. Using multivariate FMRI researchers were able recently to demonstrate this for the first time.

This builds on previous work that has looked for a “mental workplace” that enables us to develop our creativity thought to be a widespread neural network.

Imagination is what allows us as humans to create, produce art, invent tools and use our mind to think scientifically, to solve problems and come up with new ideas.

So now we know and no longer have to imagine.

Imagine that.

C. Brock Kirwan, Stefania R. Ashby, Michelle I. Nash. Remembering and imagining differentially engage the hippocampus: A multivariate fMRI investigation. Cognitive Neuroscience, 2014; 1 DOI: 10.1080/17588928.2014.933203

Alexander Schlegel, Peter J. Kohler, Sergey V. Fogelson, Prescott Alexander, Dedeepya Konuthula, and Peter Ulric Tse. Network structure and dynamics of the mental workspace. PNAS, September 16, 2013 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1311149110

Dr Jenny Brockis

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and internationally board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, workplace health and wellbeing consultant, podcaster, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book 'Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life' (Wiley) is available online and at all good bookstores.

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