I had an interesting experience today.  I was concentrating heavily on removing the scaffolding from a 3d model.  It fit nicely in the palm of my hand, and I was carefully prying off the waffle-like gray plastic away from the clean white model.  Every little piece that came off was like the flake of one of those wafer cookies.  If it weren’t obviously not delicious, I’m pretty sure I’d try to crumble them up and make a fudge-scaffolding bark.

While this was happening, my computer was playing hulu.  It was a hospital documentary.  Which one? It doesn’t matter so much, they are all the same.  It’s what happens when you watch one thing, and then just let it keep playing: you get strange and mysterious shows that the hulu algorithms predict you would like based on your watch history, and the rest of the internet.  Ok, here is the interesting thing.  I’m definitely an auditory learner.  If you can’t tell from my extremely dense writing style, I have affection for words, and I commonly think in metaphors.  From when I was a little kid I noticed that when I heard someone speak, I would repeat all of the words in my head directly after they were said.  I think probably everyone does this -it’s called listening :).

Today, the cool part was that I focused so intently on the task at hand, that the words from the show became the central thing in my mind’s eye.  There wasn’t any visual to dominate the landscape. I then, subconsciously I suppose, started to visualize the entire thing.  I didn’t just hear the characters speaking, I saw them walking in the hospital, the video camera zooming in on their faces, and the white shine of the coffee cup that clinked in the view.  The very second that I realized what was happening, it ended. Right after the experience I was taken away by the coolness of it all.  I have an extremely active, and vivid imagination, and I suppose I don’t give it a lot of time to do its thing without the context of sight. If I ever were to become blind, I would simply learn to see in my head, just like that.

It made me think though, could this be a tiny glimpse into how the brain can learn to pick up on other modalities? Does it help to explain why I dream so vividly? If we did an imaging study with individuals listening to a story, could we identify a cohort with significantly more activation in areas of visual cortex?
I’m not sure, but I am sure that I’m quite sleepy, and it’s time to give both parts of my brain a little fun time! I never know what I’m going to dream of, but it’s usually pretty good :).