Imagine what it would be like to be able to taste the rainbow, see colours when you hear certain sounds or seeing the words come out of people’s mouths when they speak. This is a normal everyday experience for people with Synesthesia.
Synesthesia is a condition in which one sense is simultaneously perceived as if by one or more additional senses. For example, hearing is joined by a sensory perception such as sight. Another form of Synesthesia joins objects such as letters, shapes, numbers or people’s names with a sensory perception such as smell, colour or flavor. The word Synesthesia means joined perception.
Synesthesia can involve any of the senses. The most common form, coloured letters and numbers, occurs when someone always sees a certain colour in response to a certain letter of the alphabet or number. There are also synesthetes who hear sounds in response to smell, who smell in response to touch, or who feel something in response to sight. Synesthetic perceptions are specific to each person.
The biological basis of Synesthesia:
- Scientists believe that synesthesia results from crossed-wiring in the brain. They theorise that in synesthetes, neurons and synapses that are supposed to be contained within one sensory system cross to another sensory system. It is believed to be the limbic system part of the brain that is primarily responsible for synesthetic experiences. The limbic system includes several brain structures responsible for regulating our emotional responses. Other research, however, has shown activity in the cerebral cortex part of the brain such as the visual cortex.
- Synesthetes have used their abilities in memorization of names and telephone numbers, mental arithmetic, and more complex creative activities like producing visual art, music, and theater.
Let’s take a look at the different types of Synesthesia:
- Grapheme-colour: Individual letters of the alphabet and numbers are a certain colour.
- Chromesthesia: The association of sounds with colour.
- Spatial sequence: Seeing numerical sequences as points in space or seeing dates or the time in the space around them.
- Number form: A mental map of numbers that appears when this person thinks of numbers.
- Auditory-tactile: Certain sounds can induce certain sensations in [parts of the body.
- Misophonia: When negative experiences are triggered by specific words.
- Mirror-touch: When a person literally feels the same sensation that another person feels.
- Lexical-gustatory: When certain tastes are experienced when hearing certain words.
About four percent of the world’s population confuses their senses. They hear something when they see certain colours, or they see colours when they hear music. Some people even taste words and then there is ticker tape synesthesia which means people literally see the words that come out of people’s mouths.
Just imagine what it would be like to live in a world filled with beautiful bright colours and where the subtitles are always on. Never a dull moment!