Synesthesia: A Union of the Senses


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For example, a synesthete a person with synesthesia might see the word " plane " as mint green or the number " 4 " as dark brown.

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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. Just about any combination of the senses is possible. There are some people who possess synesthesia involving three or even more senses, but this is extremely rare. Synesthetic perceptions are specific to each person. Different people with synesthesia almost always disagree on their perceptions. In other words, if one synesthete thinks that the letter " q " is colored blue, another synesthete might see " q " as orange.


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Diagnosis Although there is no officially established method of diagnosing synesthesia, some guidelines have been developed by Richard Cytowic, MD, a leading synesthesia researcher. Not everyone agrees on these standards, but they provide a starting point for diagnosis. According to Cytowic, synesthetic perceptions are: Involuntary : synesthetes do not actively think about their perceptions; they just happen.

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Projected : rather than experiencing something in the "mind's eye," as might happen when you are asked to imagine a color, a synesthete often actually sees a color projected outside of the body. Durable and generic : the perception must be the same every time; for example, if you taste chocolate when you hear Beethoven's Violin Concerto, you must always taste chocolate when you hear it; also, the perception must be generic -- that is, you may see colors or lines or shapes in response to a certain smell, but you would not see something complex such as a room with people and furniture and pictures on the wall.

Memorable : often, the secondary synesthetic perception is remembered better than the primary perception; for example, a synesthete who always associates the color purple with the name " Laura " will often remember that a woman's name is purple rather than actually remembering "Laura. Who has it?

Estimates for the number of people with synesthesia range from 1 in to 1 in , There are probably many people who have the condition but do not realize what it is. Synesthetes tend to be: Women : in the U. The reason for this difference is not known.

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Left-handed : synesthetes are more likely to be left-handed than the general population. Neurologically normal : synesthetes are of normal or possibly above average intelligence, and standard neurological exams are normal. In the same family : synesthesia appears to be inherited in some fashion; it seems to be a dominant trait and it may be on the X-chromosome.

Famous People Some celebrated people who may have had synesthesia include: Vasily Kandinsky painter, Amy Beach pianist and composer, Olivier Messiaen composer, Charles Baudelaire poet, Franz Liszt composer, Arthur Rimbaud poet, Richard Phillips Feynman physicist, Mary J. Blige singer, songwriter, It is possible that some of these people merely expressed synesthetic ideas in their arts, although some of them undoubtedly did have synesthesia. The Biological Basis of Synesthesia Some scientists believe that synesthesia results from "crossed-wiring" in the brain. The full text of this article hosted at iucr.

If you do not receive an email within 10 minutes, your email address may not be registered, and you may need to create a new Wiley Online Library account. If the address matches an existing account you will receive an email with instructions to retrieve your username. Applied Cognitive Psychology Volume 17, Issue 7.

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A Union of the Senses

Scharff Stephen F. Tools Request permission Export citation Add to favorites Track citation. Share Give access Share full text access. Share full text access. About the Author : Richard E. Review : In , the first edition of Synesthesia rekindled discussion, which had died down somewhat since the 'synesthesia euphoria' of the s. Jeorg Jewanski, Conservatory Detmold This new edition brings the reader interested in synaesthesia rapidly up to date with the scholarly and scientific debates in this field, and will stand as the new textbook on this unusual condition.

Simon Baron-Cohen, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology, University of Cambridge In , the first edition of Synesthesia rekindled discussion, which had died down somewhat since the 'synesthesia euphoria' of the s.


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