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45 - The Psychiatry of Imagination

from Part VI - Altered States of the Imagination

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 May 2020

Anna Abraham
University of Georgia
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Psychiatric disorders provide unique insights into imagination, because they represent extremes of evolved adaptations and trade-offs. I review imagination in the two main sets of disorders of human social and imaginative cognition: the autism spectrum and the psychotic affective spectrum. To do so, I first operationally define imagination in terms of its components, then discuss how seven major aspects of imagination – pretend play, creativity, narrative and the arts, mental time travel, salience, mental imagery and sensory systems, and neural system instantiating it – are altered in autism and psychotic-affective spectrum conditions, mainly with reference to schizophrenia. I then relate fluid intelligence to imagination, and both of them to autism and schizophrenia, genetically and phenotypically. By this narrative review, the autism spectrum involves, overall, lower imagination (and higher aspects of intelligence), while schizophrenia involves higher aspects of imagination (but lower intelligence). Autism and psychotic-affective disorders provide novel opportunities to analyze the causes and consequences of increased, and reduced, imagination, with direct implications for mental-disorder therapies, and enhancements of imagination and creativity among relatively neurotypical individuals.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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