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According to modern concepts of how the brain works, imagination, like thinking , is a process. All processes in the brain are implemented by transmitting complex sets of electrical impulses between neurons in the brain. Science does not yet have a complete picture of how individual impulses make up a complete picture. But to put it quite simply, the process of imagining a pink elephant can be described as follows::
1) you saw an elephant somewhere, its image on the retina of the eye generated certain impulses that went along the nerve connections to the brain and changed the chemical characteristics of individual neurons, forming a “track” in the brain corresponding to the image of “elephant”;
2) you saw a pink color somewhere, its image was also fixed in your brain in the form of a “track”, and the more often you saw it, the more often the impulses passed along this “track”, reliably fixing the image;
3) by force of will or under the influence of neuroactive substances, you launch an impulse along the tracks “elephant” and ” pink “and imagine the image of a”pink elephant”.
Well, strictly speaking, the retina has nothing to do with it. Physically, the image corresponds to the interactive activation of visual areas of the brain responsible for image processing and semantic areas responsible for categorization. It is not yet possible to visualize this process with accuracy up to a neuron – the resolution of the equipment does not allow it.
Below is an example of a recent study that shows that there are individual differences in processing the image of a “pink elephant” in people with a predominance of visual and verbal types of thinking.
” els-cdn.com “
Andrey Savchenko's answer is clear, and everything he says is true, but the trouble is that there are no images in the retina and there is no “pinkness”there. We know what determines color perception and image formation, but there is no small “TV” in the brain that would broadcast this image. And my question is not about what is the cause of the image, but what is physically the “picture” itself experienced by consciousness.