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How Visualization Affects the Brain: The Complete Guide

The brain is one of the smallest organs of the body. However, it’s the most important. Whatever affects your brain will affect you one way or the other. Your brain determines what is real to you. Some imaginations can be so strong that they will feel like reality.

Let’s look at the way imagery affects your brain and how you can leverage that to enhance your chance of success.


The human brain is designed to think in images. Before your body carries out any activity, it is first pictured inside your brain. Over time, the brain learns your routines and makes them automatic. This automation is the reason some people struggle with certain destructive habits.

When you think about an action, your body doesn’t carry it out immediately. Your brain will first signal the motor cortex below the threshold required to activate the action.

There are various factors that determine whether this spark will translate to actions eventually. One of them is your motivation and desire to produce the action. Studies have proven that when you imagine yourself in the first person, there is a higher chance you will carry out the action than when you think about yourself in the second or third person. It’s also vital to note that consistency makes the action believable to trigger its performance.

You cannot leverage visualization successfully when you have a habit of changing your goals. You cannot plan to become an athlete the previous week and a musician the next week.

Your brain won’t have a consistent picture to process. The result is that you will not have enough motivation to succeed in anything. Therefore, you have to take your time before deciding what you plan to achieve with your life.


One of the reasons visualization is effective is because the brain eventually assumes that your imaginations are realities. For example, when you learn something new such as how to ride a bike, the memory will make an imprint in your brain. When you keep thinking about practicing the skill, the imprint becomes stronger in your brain. It is at this stage that you find it easier to recall anything regarding that task or skill. When you think about performing the skill, it feels real sometimes.

The reason you have such a sensation is that your brain cannot differentiate between imagination and a real event. This is the same reason some people would ejaculate by imagining themselves having sex with an attractive person.

It sounds strange, but that is the truth, and researchers have confirmed it. A study carried out by the International Coaching Academy that was published in its neuroscience and visualization research paper proves that this claim is true.

According to the researchers, your brain will begin to respond to an idea as though it was a real object if you exercise it in your mind over and over again. The paper explained that the reason for this response is due to the activities of the thalamus.

The thalamus is responsible for the reality-making process of the brain. Interestingly, this region of the brain doesn’t distinguish between internal and external realities. So, when you contemplate an idea long enough, it will start looking real.

You will start feeling that you can achieve it because it looks real to you. This perception of your brain is the first motivating step towards achieving a goal. It will spur other parts of the brain and your body to take deliberate actions that will make it possible for you to reach the target.


The effect of visualization on the brain’s Reticular Activating System (RAS) is one of the reasons it helps people achieve the kind of remarkable results people get from leveraging this practice. When you have a habit of creating imaginations about your goals, your brain will be more active to ensure that you pay more attention to opportunities that would help you accomplish the goal.

For example, you’ll be more conscious when you see an ad about learning the guitar because you want to become a music star.

That same ad will not draw the attention of a person who wants to be an athlete because he or she doesn’t have such imaginations. Your RAS plays a vital role in making you pay more attention to things related to your dreams. The RAS acts in many capacities, and one of them is as a gatekeeper that selects the information that should be brought into your consciousness and the ones that should be in the background.

You are often bombarded with millions of stimuli and information every second of your life. So, it isn’t possible for you to pay attention to everything at the same time. Your subconscious mind can only handle about 11 million items per second.

However, your conscious mind can only process 40 to 120 items per second. Therefore, there is no way you will not lose sight of some things. Your brain has to filter out what is irrelevant and keep the relevant ones, and it is the job of the RAS to make this selection.


When the RAS is choosing the information to discard and the ones to keep, it bases its selection on two parameters – safety and interest. In other words, the RAS gives priority to information that will keep you safe. The next on the list are those things that you find interesting.

Your RAS will assume that something is important and exciting to you when you think about it a lot. So, by employing visualization, you are training your brain to prioritize information and items that are connected to your goals. You’ll see opportunities in things that don’t make any sense to others because they are connected to your goals.

Your consciousness has been heightened to recognize things that can increase your chances of making your dreams a reality. So, whenever you see such things, your attention will be drawn to them instantly.

Your brain is alert, and it will start functioning like a satellite looking for a particular signal. Once it finds it, you are alerted to do something about it. You can deliberately train your mind to help you locate opportunities by leveraging visualization.

Those thoughts you have created will become the template for the kind of things your brain will see as important. It will ensure that you don’t overlook such things whenever you see them.

So you can use visualization to achieve your goals by constantly imprinting the images in your brain.  Your brain will seek out opportunities and information to help manifest your goals and make your ‘dreams’ a reality.