Involuntary Method of Loci Memorization (IMLM) – what the heck is that?

A note of warning – If you are thinking about copying or plagiarizing any of the text, ideas or descriptions in this post and using it is your own work without giving me (C. Wright, author of the blog “Am I a super-recognizer?”) the proper acknowledgement and citations, then think again. If you do that you will be found out and you will regret it. If you want to make reference to this post or any of the ideas in it make sure that you state in your work exactly where you first read about these ideas. If you wish to quote any text from this post be sure to cite this post at this blog properly. There are many established citation methods. If you quote or make reference to material in this blog in your work, it would be a common courtesy to let me know about your work (I’m interested!) in a comment on any of the posts in this blog. Thank you.

I am not sure if this visual-spatial-memory related experience, which I and at least two of my first-degree relatives experience often, has already been described publicly in an anecdote or in a more scientific or formal discourse. I only know that I have never read or heard a description of this experience that wasn’t first prompted by my explaining it to someone else. Maybe it is such a common thing that it isn’t thought worth mentioning. This is the attitude toward this experience that is held by one of my two relatives who has this experience. In light of the fact that these relatives and I are all synaesthetes, and synaesthetes are thought to have unusual memory abilities, and this experience appears to be an involuntary subtype of the method of loci memorization technique, an ancient memory technique that was thought to have been used by neuropsychologist Alexander Luria’s famous case “S”, who was described in Luria’s book The mind of a mnemonist , who was also a synaesthete and had arguably the most amazing memory known to science, I think this experience might be of some scientific interest, and I think it is worth spending some time describing it.

Before attempting to explain what involuntary method of loci memorization is, it makes sense to explain what the method of loci is. I’m happy to outsource this task to the Wikipedia:

“The method of loci…, also called the memory palace, is a general designation for mnemonic techniques that rely on memorised spatial relationships to establish, order and recollect memorial content…. The method of loci is also commonly called the mental walk. In basic terms, it is a method of memory enhancement which uses visualization to organize and recall information. Many memory contest champions claim to use this technique in order to recall faces, digits, and lists of words. These champions’ successes have little to do with brain structure or intelligence, but more to do with their technique of using regions of their brain that have to do with spatial learning. Those parts of the brain that contribute most significantly to this technique include the medial parietal cortex, retrosplenial cortex, and the right posterior hippocampus.”

I have never deliberately tried to use this technique myself, but I believe it can be applied to the task of memorizing a set sequence of distinct items. I don’t think it is applied to complex concepts. One either imagines visually in the mind’s eye, or one visits and sees, a familiar walking route. One then imagines each item to be memorized, in order, at various landmarks and locations along the walk. If the items are not the type of thing normally visualised, they must be mentally converted into a visual form. For example, a name to be memorized could be converted into a visual image of a thing that the name brings to mind. To recall this list of items one needs to imagine walking along that route, and apparently in the mind’s eye each item will be encountered on the imaginary journey and recalled. I guess this might be the origin of the saying “a walk down memory lane”.

There are a number of ways in which involuntary method of loci memorization (IMLM) is different to method of loci, but I think the similarities are interesting and indicate the use of similar or the same neurological machinery. Rather than thinking of IMLM as an accidental version of method of loci memory technique, perhaps it is more suitable to regard the method of loci technique as a method of “taming” and using the process involved in IMLM. As is a familiar theme to anyone who has been interested enough to read my blog, I believe this is a type of synaesthesia or has central elements in common with synaesthesia.

How does IMLM work? The basis of this memory phenomenon is the long-term incidental/accidental formation of a stable neurological association between the visual image of the scene of the exact location where one is at and information absorbed through interested, attentive reading or through interested, attentive listening at a time when one was present at and looking at that exact location. If one revisits that exact location and looks at exactly the same scene, the memory of the information absorbed at that location is automatically and involuntarily recalled. There does not need to be any logical link between the place or scene and the concept. Recall of the concept can happen years later when the place is revisited. As I have not made any serious attempt to record this phenomenon I do not know exactly how long these associations can last. The form in which the information is recalled is in conceptual form – I do not “hear” in my mind’s ear the sound of the original radio broadcast, and I do not “read” in my mind’s eye information read at that location. I just remember the gist of what was learned at that location. This is one way in which this phenomenon is different from the method of loci. In the method of loci both the trigger (seeing or visualizing the scenery of the walk) and the experiences evoked (visualizing the items memorized) are visual. In the IMLM the trigger is visual (a scene) but the experience evoked is a concept, not visual, at least that has been the way I experience it.

One could simply call this scene->concept synaesthesia, and interestingly, I have described at this blog concept->scene synaesthesia, and unusual variations, which I also experience, and at this blog other people from around the world have described similar concept->scene synaesthesia experiences. Clearly, at least in some brains, there are very active physical connections between the part of the brain that “does” visualisation of memories of scenes (fusiform gyrus?) and the part of the brain that “does” abstract conceptual thinking, whatever that part might be. I have never before read of any such thing being described in the literature on synaesthesia. I choose to not simply call the IMLM phenonenon “scene->concept synaesthesia” because this differs from classic synaesthesia in a number of important ways. Unlike other known types of synaesthesia, the events that formed the synaesthesia-like connections can be remembered by me and they are similar scenarios. Unlike the apparent origins of many well-studied types of synaesthesia (such as grapheme->colour synaesthesia, which I and relatives also experience), the events that formed these connection did not happen in early childhood, and new instances of this type of synaesthesia could easily be deliberately created, and possibly exploited as a mnemonic device. To contrast IMLM and my synaesthesias that connect scenes and concepts with the more classic forms of synaesthesia such as number form synaesthesia and grapheme->colour synaesthesia, the classic types could be described as “developmental” because they form in early childhood, most likely as the result of natural but atypical brain maturation processes, and they are permanent, but my IMLM and related synaesthesias can form in adulthood, can be manipulated and created, and while these connections are generally very long-lasting, I’m not completely sure that they are as unchanging as the classic synaesthesias. IMLM is not a type of “developmental” synaesthesia – I would instead describe it as an unusual ability that the synaesthete brain is possibly especially capable at doing at any age. It could very well be useful if one wanted to learn some type of savant memory party trick.

I can’t be completely sure that my experiences are identical to those of my synaesthete close relatives. I am trying to clarify with one of my close relatives whether the evoked experience is for them always conceptual. This relative has described an instance of this phenomenon in which a specific scene of some very large, shady trees at Liddell Park at Girrawheen on Wanneroo Road involuntarily evokes the memory of the song “Love Song” by Sara Bareilles. We are not sure if it is the sound or the concept of this song that is evoked. A characteristic of this phenomenon is that, unless one thinks about specific instances a lot, it happens unexpectedly and is easily forgotten. It is like a thought that flashes through the mind and vanishes as fast as it appeared. This is why it can be tricky to record and easy to overlook.

I believe that IMLM and my other synaesthesia and synaesthesia-like experiences that involve concepts, faces and scenes, experiences such as my concept->scene synaesthesia, fine motor task->scene synaesthesia, The Strange Phenomenon and IMLM, are especially interesting because they are essentially synaesthesia, but they also appear to violate one of the basic criteria for identifying synaesthesia in a set of criteria that has had a lot of scientific influence for many years. The pioneer of 20th century synaesthesia research in the US, Dr Richard Cytowic, formulated a set of criteria for synaesthesia during his pioneering investigations into the neurological phenomenon. I believe that a driving motivation of Cytowic’s at the time might have been to outline the many differences between synaesthesia and psychosis-type experiences. Cytowic’s criteria number three for synaesthesia is thus: “Synesthetic percepts are consistent and generic (i.e., simple rather than pictorial).” The faces, scenes and abstract concepts that I experience during some types of synaesthesia are most definitely not generic and simple rather than pictorial. I believe it was years after Cytowic’s work that the UK synaesthesia researcher Dr Julia Simner wrote a paper or papers arguing for the conceptual nature of some types of synaesthesia, and arguing against the notion that synaesthesia is a purely simple and sensory experience (“mixed-up senses”). She was focusing on types of synaesthesia that involve simple learned concepts, such as numbers and letters and months of the year, in types of synaesthesia such as grapheme->colour synaesthesia, number form synaesthesia and sequence-space synaesthesia. The history of synaesthesia research goes back centuries, and the definition of synaesthesia is still evolving. I believe that my experiences, and those of oher people that are described at this blog, should be taken into account in the ongoing scientific exploration of synaesthesia.

Back to the subject at hand! How does the IMLM phenomenon typically happen? A common scenario that brings about this phenomenon is me sitting in a parked car while listening to an informational radio show, news radio broadcasts and Radio National being favourite listening of mine. Sometimes this happens when I am waiting for others to run some errand, and sometimes I’m sitting in the car listening to the end of some radio item that has caught my interest, before getting out and going shopping or whatever. I have considered naming this phenomenon car-park -> Radio National synaesthesia, but I think to call it just another type of synaesthesia is an oversimplification, and it also happens in slightly different scenarios. As with all types of synesthesia, the trigger and the evoked experience are both very specific. It is so specific that it can be localised to within just a couple of car-park spaces. In the car-park of one shopping centre that I often visit, many different areas of that car-park evoke their own specific memories of the thing that I learned about while parked at that space.  This same car-park phenomenon can happen when I sit in a parked car reading a book while stopping to gaze at the surrounds. I will recall what I read about in the book when I was parked there if I return to that parking space, or a space no more than a few spaces away, again years later and look at the scene.

Scenes can change, and I guess this would nullify this phenomenon, but I’m not sure. Perhaps the sense of one’s geographical place rather than vision of scenery can act as a trigger. I’m not sure. This phenomenon can form while one is travelling as a passenger gazing out the window of a vehicle that has stopped temporarily at lights or a traffic jam, while listening to the radio. The concept memorized needs to be reasonably interesting to the listener. It can be something shocking like a fictional description of sexual abuse, or news of a deadly natural disaster happening, but it doesn’t have to evoke extreme emotions. Odd, obscure ideas and facts can be memorized, but it must hold some interest to the person.

I am sure that weak, fuzzy and common forms of this phenomenon are commonplace. We all recall memories of times past when we revisit places where scenes of our lives have taken place, don’t we? I often like to revisit places that hold happy memories from my past, so that in going there I can gain good access to those memories. I guess other people do the same? We all habitually return to places that we have previously enjoyed being at, and avoid places that were the setting of unpleasant times. This makes sense psychologically, and this type of behaviour makes sense within the context of evolutionary adaptations.

I guess there are some people who have little opportunity to experience IMLM. If a person doesn’t ever listen to talk radio while in a vehicle or never reads information in places where they can also see scenery, they may never have the chance to experience it. Perhaps IMLM is a very common experience for people who habitually listen to talk radio or spoken books on long road or rail journeys, or while working as a long distance truck driver. In fact I know a long-distance truck driver who has described to me privately an experience that sounds a lot like IMLM.

Many questions are raised during consideration of IMLM and the method of loci. An obvious one is whether people who have agnosia for scenes completely miss out on this phenomenon. Perhaps it depends on the exact nature of the cause of their agnosia (damage or disconnection?) What is the relationship between synaesthesia and method of loci? Do synaesthetes have some type of natural advantage in using it? Any particular type of synaesthetes? Luria’s “S”, a multi-synaesthete and a grapheme -> colour synaesthete, reportedly used the method of loci (Wilding & Valentine 1997), and three grapheme -> colour synaesthetes (my family members and I) experience IMLM, a phenomenon which appears to be closely related to the method of loci.

Which parts of the brain are involved in IMLM? Visual memories of scenes are an essential element of both the method of loci and IMLM. Visual memories of scenes are also a recurring theme within the descriptions of my unusual neurological experiences that I have written at my blog. I believe the fusiform gyrus is the part of the brain that processes this type of information. I have given many arguments in my blog, regarding different types of synaesthesia that I experience, asserting that my fusiform gyrus is unusual and in some ways superior in function. This all appears to suggest that the fusiform gyrus is involved in the method of loci.

How can knowledge of these memory phenomena and techniques be applied to improving learning and the use of memory? Could a regime of listening to sound recordings of information to be absorbed while travelling along a route be an effective learning technique? How could this memorized information be later recalled? Could there an advantage to travelling to school, university or work in a long journey with lots of opportunities for viewing scenes? There is no end to the neurological phenomena that I hope to find the time to describe, and one of those phenomena is the one in which driving or travelling in a vehicle appears to unlock my memory, my ability to link concepts and to generate new ideas like nothing else can.

What are the limitations and the advantages of the use of the method of loci and IMLM memory phenomena? The method of loci has the disadvantage that the retrieval of information encoded using the method is inflexible. It relies on being at a specific geographical location or imagining a specific location for it to work. IMLM is just as specific and inflexible, and is also very fast and fickle, but it can be “tamed” by consciously reflecting on it, in a similar way as the application of the method of loci technique. I have found that once one is aware of the associations between scenes and concepts, one can think of the scene and then recall the concept. I have found that there are instances in which this works in reverse – thinking about a concept evokes a memory of a scene. It is far from clear how the conscious manipulation of IMLM might provide any advantage over simply reading stuff and thinking about stuff. Figuring out how to exploit this thing is probably a job for someone else. The first step is describing the phenomenon, which is what I’ve done here.

Some examples of spontaneous IMLM experiences that have happened:

-being at a specific place in a carpark at Warwick Shopping Centre evoking a memory of a rather hard-to-believe description of a sexually exploitative situation in the book Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs, which I read months before when waiting in a parked car in that specific area

-the example given in the text of this article experienced by a close relative of mine involving a park in Girrawheen

-the concept of The Book Depository and the decline of non-internet book retailers evoked when parking at a particular spot at the Dog Swamp Shopping Centre, where I was parked months before when I listened to a story on The Book Show on Radio National about The Book Depository, and it was the first time I’d heard of the business.

-the concept of raising a transgender child in a genuinely sympathetic manner in spite of ignorant people evoked by parking in a particular spot next to a kindergarten, where months before I’d listened to an interesting story on this subject on the car radio after droppng young child off.

-there are many more examples, most involving carpark spaces and talk radio shows


Cytowic, Richard E. Synesthesia: a union of the senses. Springer-Verlag, 1989.

Luria, Alexander The mind of a mnemonist: a little book about a vast memory. Penguin, 1975.

Simner, Julia Beyond perception: synaesthesia as a psycholinguistic phenomenon. Trends in cognitive sciences, 11(1), 23-29.

Wikipedia contributors Method of loci. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Wilding, John M. and Valentine, Elizabeth R. Superior memory. Psychology Press, 1997.

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  • Dayna Casey  On November 2, 2011 at 8:46 am

    This is definitely the story of my life. It’s also funny that around 20 years ago I used to live in Perth on Wanneroo Road.

    I’m now a graphic design student in the Hague, Holland, working on a project about psychogeography, slowly researching and figuring out the connection this topic has with ‘my sense/concept synesthesia’ and my consistent sense of my geographical location. Thanks to your elaborate piece on the subject.

    I was trying to connect the method of Loci to what I personally have; before reading your story above this is what I had jotted down:
    …but for some reason my memories are put out onto a spatial map naturally and are not just temporary mnenomics…

    For the record I have known for three years now that I have numberform synesthesia and always thought that my ‘amazing sense of direction and location’ had to do with the ability to put things in certain locations in my mind. I always kind of knew that there was probably more to it, but had pretty much never found anything on the subject until now.

    So I don’t have a clue where this project is going to take me, but it will be a visual experiment on the topic. If you’re interested I can show you the result if it ever finishes.

    Anyway, thankyou for enlightening me.

    Dayna Casey

  • C. Wright  On November 2, 2011 at 11:43 am

    I think your synaesthesia is actually more interesting than mine, because it appears that you might have discovered a link between number form synaesthesia and a cognitive superiority – your self-identified superior sense of direction and location. This is particularly interesting because this isn’t the first cognitive superiority that has been discovered to be associated with a type of synaesthesia that involves automatically conceptualizing items that are learned in a set sequence as a set spatial layout. You have number form synaesthesia, and some people have time-space synaesthesia, such as conceptualizing years on a snake-like spatial form that varies in its layout from person to person. Synaesthetes have reported set spatial layouts for all sorts of sequences, TV channels, shoe sizes, Indian castes. One study has found a link between tine-space synaesthesia and superior performance in autobiographical memory, visual memory recall and the ability to manipulate real or imagined objects in 3D space, which is pretty darned interesting. I don’t have this type of synaesthesia myself, and I believe I’d be a more organised person if I did. Jill Price, “the woman who can’t forget” has time-space synaesthesia. Here’s the details of that paper in the journal “Cortex”, which is in a journal issue that has other papers about that type of synesthesia, but i think might be behind a paywall:

    Simner, J., Mayo, N., & Spiller, M. (2009). A foundation for savantism? Visuo-spatial synaesthetes present with cognitive benefits. Cortex, 45 (10), 1246-1260 DOI: 10.1016/j.cortex.2009.07.007

    Thanks for your comment, Dayna!

  • C. Wright  On November 2, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    You might be interested to know that researchers have found that between 20% and 26% of people have synaesthesia that involves spatial forms for sequences such as time units or numbers or letters, so it isn’t a rare phenomenon, more common than lefthandedness I think. This paper is the source of this info:

    Time-space synaesthesia–a cognitive advantage?
    Mann H, Korzenko J, Carriere JS, Dixon MJ.
    Consciousness and Cognition.
    2009 Sep;18(3):619-27. Epub 2009 Jul 24.

    and that paper cited this one:

    What is the relationship between synaesthesia and visuo-spatial number forms?Noam Sagiv, Julia Simner, James Collins, Brian Butterworth,Jamie Ward
    Cognition 101 (2006) 114–128,5&as_vis=1

  • Dayna Casey  On November 2, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    Thanks for your reply! I’m definitely going to look that up.
    For some reason, the post that I placed a couple of hours later didn’t make it.
    A definite elaboration on the first.

    Lucky I saved it –

    This is what I commented 9 hours ago:

    OK. I really need to elaborate on this.
    I had only read this one post when I commented.

    So I read somewhere that you hadn’t heard of any other women that had this, if someone didn’t beat me to it, then I’m your second!

    What I have really just realized a couple of moments ago is pretty amazing for me. I started reading the actual moments and association of concepts you had and also the comments of Nick explaining his specific location associations with certain words. At first I thought: OK this part I don’t have. But actually I all of a sudden realized that a question had once occurred to me, but I don’t think I ever got around to asking anyone. The question was: ‘Does your mind ever randomly switch back to a certain location from the past for just a split-second?’
    I never thought it was different, and it’s probably why I didn’t even notice it at first when reading, because why would anyone not ever think of places they have been? But they had no specific connection to whatever I was thinking or saying that it must have occurred to me to ask someone.

    If I think of any of these moments, I can’t actually recall any exact visual images, because my mind is focusing too much on trying as I have been doing research for the last 10 hours. Nor can I (at this moment) connect them to what I’m doing or saying at these times. I really need to start taking notice and write things down. What I can say is that they are mostly childhood places (I typed in memories first, but nothing ever really happens in these split-seconds, it’s mostly just a location or the feeling that I am walking in a certain place).
    I also have the feeling that they can be very literal, bees connecting to our backyard in Yokine where there was a tree, but come to think of it – nothing ever really happened with a bee there. Maybe something was said at the time? (Ah, we’re getting somewhere)
    The places can also be as uninteresting as the front drive, which was really not much of a looker, at the place which was on Wanneroo Road, like I said before.

    These are also places that I have not been in atleast 10 years, I never drive or walk or even am at these places anymore as I now live on the other side of the world. So I regularly dig deep into memories.

    On the other hand, my short term memory, or mid-term memory and actually also my longterm memory has everything to do with your IMLM theory. But I feel in a different way to what I have just described. I remember absolutely every situation, conversation and orders in which these have happened, what exact time and precisely where to the centimeter on earth this occurred. I regularly get into disagreements with my boyfriend, because I get irritated repeating things and really not being able to understand how things should be said twice or done twice, because how can you not know this happened? ‘It happened at 2:10pm last friday and we were sitting in this chair and had just talked about this and that.’ That kind of thing. I feel that this is actually a combination of this sense of my geographical location and my number form synesthesia.
    Because timeslots and days of weeks (my timeslots are integrated in my ‘weekmap’) have a certain spatial location, a situation is automatically placed in this map and cannot differ. There is no question about it happening at another time or place.
    I also remember naming my ‘abilities’ a photographic memory when I was young, because it was the only term I knew that could explain it. I was disappointed when I read what it was exactly and couldn’t quite relate.

    (I do always lose my keys and/or bankcard – I guess because I automatically just put these somewhere without thinking at all)

    I also actually also easily remember faces and remember finding it rude of some people not recognizing me, realizing later that my memory was just better than others but never thought more of it. I haven’t read your posts on this yet so maybe I’ll learn a couple of things.

    One more thing – it’s slowly becoming a whole novel what I’m writing here.
    Do you think there is any relation between being an extremely good speller and the things mentioned before?
    I don’t think I have ever made more than a couple of spelling mistakes in my life (of course I make the occasional typo, so I apologize for any spelling mistakes haha). For me there is no other way to spell things than the way it should be spelt. Maybe because my alphabet is also in a certain spatial map?
    But I always see the word as the word itself in front of me (always the same spot for all words), never anything on a bizarre location and never split up into letters.
    I was nine (I am now 23) when I moved from Australia to Holland and a year after I moved I got a 10 out of 10 for the whole semester for spelling in Dutch. Some of these words I had only seen once. It’s like once it had been seen, it was automatically archived in my mind, available to grab any time. But this ‘grabbing from a location’ is not seen like in numbers or letters, the words just appear in front of me.
    Well, maybe this is just something that good spellers have. But for some reason I feel that it is connected to synesthesia.
    What I do have is that I mix up Dutch and English. Not often at all, but sometimes I have to think twice about say.. prepositions. But maybe that is because most of my academic life was in Dutch and the English I speak is purely what I hear around me. Which isn’t necessarily on a daily basis.

    So, that was the first time that I set out in words what I have. I could tell more probably if I really dig in deep, but I think that was long enough for now.
    I’m really curious of what you can relate to and what you have to say.
    I am definitely going to read more of your blog and of course follow it.

    Thanks again


  • C. Wright  On November 2, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    You might wish to start keeping a record, if you have time, of the times when your mind goes to locations from your past unexpectedly, to see if there are any specific triggers for this phenomenon, and to see if it is one particular type of stimulus that triggers an involuntary recall of memories, such as movement, thnking of a specific concept, or perhaps some type of sensory experience. I think everyone has occasional moments when a smell or taste that they haven’t experienced for years “takes them back”, but I’m pretty sure that is not exactly the same type of phenomenon, because with synaesthesia there does not need to be any logical or temporal link between a trigger and the synaesthesia experience.

    “I remember absolutely every situation, conversation and orders in which these have happened, what exact time and precisely where to the centimeter on earth this occurred. I regularly get into disagreements with my boyfriend, because I get irritated repeating things and really not being able to understand how things should be said twice or done twice, because how can you not know this happened? ‘It happened at 2:10pm last friday and we were sitting in this chair and had just talked about this and that.’ That kind of thing. I feel that this is actually a combination of this sense of my geographical location and my number form synesthesia.Because timeslots and days of weeks (my timeslots are integrated in my ‘weekmap’) have a certain spatial location, a situation is automatically placed in this map and cannot differ. There is no question about it happening at another time or place. I also remember naming my ‘abilities’ a photographic memory when I was young, because it was the only term I knew that could explain it. I was disappointed when I read what it was exactly and couldn’t quite relate.”

    I definitely do not have this type of ability, but it sounds most useful. I can never sign and date documents without having to look up what today’s date is. I don’t know if that is normal or what. There have been quite a lot of media stories and books and some science journal papers written about the type of memory abilities that you decribed in the last few years in the US and the UK and Australia. I think there’s even a TV series titled “Unforgettable” with a character who has such abilities. I have no idea how common it actually is, but researchers are interested in it. The old term for it was “hyperthymestic syndrome” but now I think researchers are calling it “superior autobiographical memory”.

    Click to access AJ_2006.pdf

    Some people who have this superiority in autobiographical memory have issues and idiosyncrasies, while others appear not to. It’s really interesting.

    Regarding the spelling – I’m a really good speller and I have passed this gene onto my grapheme-colour syanesthete offspring, who have also been very good at reading, writing and languages from early childhood. I think it is a thing that can be traced back in my family tree, but nobody else will admit to having coloured letters in our family. I believe this is related to my very good face recognition – I think it is just fantastic visual recognition ability that is just as applicable to faces as to words. The visual perception of colours, letters, numbers, words, and faces all happens in one part of the brain, the fusiform gyrus, so it makes sense that all these things should be found together. Dyslexia researchers should be interested in this type of thing.

  • Anonymous  On May 23, 2012 at 2:29 am

    it’s a question mark

  • metaphysicsandreligion  On January 8, 2020 at 9:58 pm

    Do you have any updates about what you call IMLM? I’ve spoken to and/or read the accounts of about 100 people on Reddit about this exact experience in the r/Synesthesia community but there’s still no clue about whether it is scientifically recognised. Any feedback would be appreciated, hoping to one day be able to establish if it really IS part of Synaesthesia/Ideasthesia or how common it is

    • greenearrings  On January 9, 2020 at 9:25 am

      I don’t get any funding to blog or do research and I don’t know how much IMLM is written about by people who do or do not not work as scientists (I believe that every person has the potential to contribute to science and thus everyone is a scientist). If you spot any accounts of IMLM in the scientific literature that do not give me due credit as the first person to describe it, please let me know. As far as I am aware, my account is the first, but if you have reason to believe otherwise, I’d also like to know about that.

      • metaphysicsandreligion  On January 9, 2020 at 6:17 pm

        I have not found any truly scientific discussion on the issue — only person who called it IMLM was someone linking to this article (how I found it) — this article is definitely the earliest account of it I’ve found on t’internet, with a reddit post being published 5 years ago being next oldest — come across many posts of people just having the experience and asking others “is this Synaesthesia?” but it’s difficult to find them all bcos without a consensus on what to call the phenomenon it’s guess work when searching key terms — also not sure I mentioned this but I experience IMLM all the time

        Here’s link to earliest post I found which wasn’t yours, but I’ve got more links to later discussions if it interests you

  • greenearrings  On January 12, 2020 at 9:06 pm

    Thanks for the link. I’m not sure if I’ll find time to look at it, as I really should focus my time more on activities that pay the bills.

    Indeed searching the scietific literature on a new or poorly-understood topic can be tricky when you aren’t sure what terms to search under. Sometimes threre can be a genuine lack of knowledge or consensus of what terminology has already been used by other researchers to name a disease or phenomenon or effect, but I think also the use of a range of different terms by researchers for the same thing can be a deliberate trick to misleadingly create the impression that they have discovered and published a description of it something for the first time. I’m well aware of two neuroscience/psychological phenomena that have gone under a confusing range of terms.

    One is synaesthesia, a thing that I experience in multiple forms and which I’ve spent considerable time studying (myself as a single-case study), describing (here at this blog and in email correspondence and testing with leading researchers), writing about (here), and theorising about (IMLM, my plagiarised immune theory of synaesthesia). The study of synaesthesia goes back centuries with early researchers using various terms. As I recall, Galton described one type as “synaesthesia” but wrote about another type with no term given. Sidis used the term “secondary sensations” I think. Other terms include “chromesthesia” etc. To this day scientific and popular literature on it is uneccesarrily fragmented by the use of different spellings in the US and the UK. Learn to spell, yanks!

    Another developmental phenomenon that I know about that has also gone under a confusing range of terms is highly superior autobiographical memory (HSAM). I was one of many people who read the supposedly first scientific account of it that was published in a neuroscience journal in 2006, even though it had been briefly described without a special term at least a couple of times already in popular accounts of autistic savantism. It is a thing that is clearly closely associated with “the autistic spectrum”, but you’d never know it from the first account, written with the apparentl naivety of an undergraduate. I got my name into the “scientific literature” by giving the tip to a synaesthesia researcher that this “first” HSAM case is also a case of sequence-space synaesthesia, with many interesting implications. My tip resulted in her going and doing a study and writng a long and interesting paper, published in Cortex. I got a brief mention. I should have been credited as an author due to my seminal shared observation. Other odd connections between me and HSAM – my visual memory triggering synaesthesias are a bit like it, and my late dear friend was a case of HSAM. HSAM started out with no term when it was just described as a footnote to autistic savantism, then the first papers used the terms “hyperthymesia” and “hyperthymestic syndrome”, and last time I checked it known as HSAM. There was never any need or excuse for this fragmenting use of made-up terminology by the boffins. They are good at pretending they’ve discovered something new and not citing existing literature or sources that aren’t science journals.

    You “experience IMLM all the time”. I wonder whether you also experience the thing that I’ve described somewhere here at this blog where I weave memories into craft projects? I still get that a lot, when I find time to be creative with my hands. If I pick up a made object or continue it as a project I’ll instantly remember what TV or radio show I listened to when I was doing the project last.


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